Congress and the Sabbath

by Dan Quinn

Can David Barton really be serious? The head of Texas-based WallBuilders, which opposes separation of church and state, now says that Congress is violating the Constitution when its members meet on Sundays, the Christian Sabbath.


In an e-mail to WallBuilders activists, Barton is criticizing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for having senators work on health insurance reform legislation on Sunday.

“Sunday sessions have been extremely rare because of the U. S. Constitution’s Article I ‘Sundays Excepted’ Clause, which excludes Sunday from the federal lawmaking process. The Framers of the Constitution held great respect for the Christian Sabbath and therefore removed it from the federal lawmaking calendar.”

Ummm… no, David.

Whatever the feelings of the Framers regarding the Sabbath, they did not write a Constitution that bars Congress from meeting on Sundays. The reference in Article I of the Constitution simply deals with how many days a president has to sign or veto a bill:

“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, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”

In other words, when counting the number of days a president has to return a bill to Congress, we don’t count Sundays.

Of course, Congress usually doesn’t meet on Sundays, although it has. Many Christians set aside the Sabbath as a day of rest. Many others, however, work, go shopping and use the day to accomplish a variety of other tasks (in addition to attending church services or otherwise honoring the Sabbath in their own way). But Barton, as he so often does, wants to drag matters of faith into partisan politics:

“The actions of the current congressional leadership certainly call into question whether they have ever read the Constitution. If they have, they have certainly shown little respect for its clauses – clauses they swore to uphold when they took their oath of office last January 6th.

There have already been numerous instances demonstrating Congress’s insistence on passing the federal health care seizure and takeover bill in blatant disregard for specific clauses of the Constitution (including the Tenth Amendment). This disregard for yet another part of the Constitution further heightens concern over the current reckless congressional agenda.

Contact your elected U. S. Representatives and Senators and find out where they stand on the issue of the Sundays Excepted Clause. If they support or make excuses for this recent congressional Sunday session, then they have affirmed their disregard for the Constitution and for their own congressional oath. If such is the case, make sure and replace them in the next election, November 2, 2010!”

And don’t forget: Barton, who served for eight years as vice chair of the Texas Republican Party, is supposedly an “expert” qualified to help rewrite social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. You can be sure it’s not just matters of faith that he wants to drag into partisan politics.