This week in Christian history: Pope Leo X born, South Carolina mandates church attendance

South Carolina mandates church attendance – Dec. 12, 1712

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This week marks the anniversary of when the colony of South Carolina passed a law requiring people to not only not work on the Christian sabbath, but to attend church worship.

The 1712 law required colonists to engage in "true religion, publicly and privately" as well as “resort to their parish church, or some other parish church, or some meeting or assembly of religious worship, tolerated and allowed by the laws of this Province, and shall there abide orderly and soberly during the time of prayer and preaching, on pain and forfeiture for every neglect the sum of five shillings current money of this Province.”

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“The provisions in the 1712 law with regard to Sunday travel were more elaborate than in its predecessors,” wrote James L. Underwood in a 2002 piece for the South Carolina Law Review.

“The general ban on Sunday travel did not apply when the purpose of the travel was to comfort the sick or an emergency arose and permission to travel was obtained from officials. If a trip did not fit one of those exceptions, it had to cease on Sunday even if the traveler was already on the road.”

Underwood speculated that enforcement of the law might have “helped fuel demands for the disestablishment of the Church of England and its replacement by a general Protestant establishment in the [South Carolina] Constitution of 1778.”

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