John Phillip Sousa may be best known for writing the stirring patriotic piece “The Stars and Stripes Forever” but in 1922 he was involved in a somewhat odd religious liberty conflict which was written about in the First Quarter 1923 issue of Liberty. At that time, the Bill of Rights (including the First Amendment) weren’t completely “incorporated” into the state laws and so people could be, and were, arrested for religious offenses. While it seems that nearly 90 years later we are well past the point where this kind of thing could happen in America, securing the freedoms of all requires our continued vigilance. Editor
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THE following interesting bit of news is taken from the Washington Star of Nov. 13, 1922, under the caption, “Blue Law Arrest Follows Sunday Concert by Sousa”.
“Binghamton, N. Y., November 13.-Harold F. Albert, recreational director of the Endicott Johnson Corporation, was arrested yesterday afternoon on complaint of the Binghamton Ministerial Association for staging a concert by John Philip Sousa’s Band at which an admission was charged.
“It was alleged the concert violated ordinances governing the observance of Sunday.George F. Johnson, president of the Endicott-Johnson Corporation, announced that he is prepared to fight the Sunday blue laws to a finish in the courts. Mr. Sousa issued a statement in which he declared that there is more inspiration in the marches he has written than in the sermons of some of the ministers who objected to the concert.”
This is another case of the churches taking a course which makes religion repellent in the public eye. The Ministerial Association is lowering the standard of Christianity by assuming functions which are entirely foreign to the methods employed by the Author of Christianity. The God of heaven, who gave the gift of song to the birds to warble their music on Sundays as well as Mondays, must look in pity upon some of His professed followers who have gone so far astray as to prohibit by state laws the beautiful strains of music rendered by such artists as compose Sousa’s Band.
If this was done because a fee was charged for the services of the musicians, then let the churches first clean their own house by arresting the church choristers and soloists for accepting pay for their musical services, as is the ease in many churches.