Religious Liberty Work in the Central Union Conference
A BRIEF report and summary of the religious liberty work in the Central Union Conference the past winter, including the effort put forth in the legislature at Jefferson City, Mo., last April, may not be uninteresting to readers of the REVIEW.
Sunday bills were introduced in all of the legislatures of our territory, with the exception of Wyoming; and though Sunday rest associations and individual advocates have urged their adoption, we are glad to ‘be ‘able to say that all of these bills have failed of adoption, nearly all being defeated in committee. Missouri had .the largest number of bills of any single State,— six in all,— and these were defeated. With the exception of a hearing granted Mrs. Wightman and the writer by a committee at Jefferson City, there were no public hearings. It is quite certain that newspaper correspondence upon the subject of Sunday legislation, private letters of protest, the judicious use of religious liberty literature, and direct personal work with the representatives of the people, have, altogether, ‘been effectual in halting further Sunday legislation in the Central Union Conference territory. From the reports I have received from the State secretaries from time to time, I am sure vigorous efforts have been put forth by them, and that signal success has attended these efforts.
At Jefferson City, Mo., April 10, a resolution was offered in the House of Representatives granting Mrs. Wight- man the privilege of using the House of Representatives Hall on the evening of April 12. The night was exceedingly disagreeable, yet a large number of the legislators and senators were present. They listened with marked attention, and frequently applauded points of the lecture.
At the conclusion of the lecture a large number of the legislators, including the speaker, the Republican floor leader, and chairman of committees, came crowding forward to the speaker’s stand, asking almost numberless questions. For an hour we were kept busy replying to these. Mrs. Wightman was asked if she would give the same lecture to the legislature the next day. Of course she re- plied in the affirmative. The following morning, Mr. Conran offered a resolution inviting Mrs. Wightman to speak to the House of Representatives at five o’clock on the “Object of Civil Government,” which was unanimously agreed to. At five o’clock scarcely a single member — 156 in all — was absent from his seat. Many of the wives and families were present, a number of senators came over from the Senate chamber, and the public galleries were well filled. In the lower gallery were the prohibition and temperance forces which were advocating a constitutional amendment for State-wide prohibition.
It will ‘be impossible to give the results of this meeting with the legislators in detail. The mention of a few incidents may be of interest. Three of the leading members requested that they be furnished all the information and literature upon the subject that was possible, while the requests for the Sunday Mail Report were so many that we decided to furnish every member a copy of the same, and did so. Personal interviews granted by many of the members disclosed an amazing interest in the subject of religious liberty and the dangers of religious legislation, plainly presented to them. Returning to Jefferson City two weeks later, we found that this interest had not abated at all; rather it had increased. A voluminous correspondence has since been carried on; and all indications, without exception, augur for good. One of the strongest Sunday-law advocates in the House completely changed his views. He said: ” Missouri evidently ought to be just where California is — without a Sunday law.”
The Speaker of the House gave us a letter of introduction to Speaker Shurtleff, of the Illinois House of Representatives, being anxious to have the Illinois Legislature hear the same doctrine of government, from which I quote, in part: —
” On April 13 Mrs. Wightman addressed the members of the legislature on the object of civil government. Her lecture was listened to with marked attention, gave general satisfaction, and made a profound impression on the minds of many of the members.” Letters of introduction to the city officials Of St. Louis were given us, and to many of the county officials of the • State of Missouri, and to certain members of Congress and United States senators at Washington. This, too, in my opinion, has opened a larger door to the press of Missouri, as nothing else, perhaps, could have done.
A brief summary of the work of the religious liberty department of the Central Union Conference (not including the work of the State departments) for a twelve-month is as follows: Religious liberty lectures given, 265; number of persons in audiences, approximately, 30,000; -newspaper articles published, in 94 different newspapers, 156, reaching, in the aggregate, 8,000,000 readers; personal visits, 2,800; pages of religious liberty literature distributed, 143,000; letters written, multigraph process and otherwise, approximately, 4,000.
We praise the Lord for the privilege and the “blessing of working with him.
JOHN S. WIGHTMAN.