Posted by: nickgerlich | December 2, 2007

Blue Morning, Blue Day

Today is Sunday. Depending on where you live, there are some things you simply cannot do today. Specifically, there are some things you cannot buy or sell on this one day of the week. Common prohibitions include alcoholic beverages and motor vehicles, but it could also include just about anything your state or local government thinks you should not be able to buy.

Welcome to the land of Blue Laws.

Originally enacted over 300 years ago (and supposedly named for the blue paper on which they were printed, although this is debated), blue laws were created to limit personal and commercial activity on Sunday, designated as a Christian day of rest. And despite the passage of time, vestiges of these restrictive laws are still on the books in most states.

It has not been that many years since Texas repealed the majority of its blue laws. I remember visiting Texas in the early-1980s, and seeing entire aisles in supermarkets cordoned off because entire classes of products could not be sold. Pots, pans, and numerous other household items could not be sold.

Blue LawsBlue laws have their roots in efforts to preserve the Christian Sabbath. Drinking was especially frowned upon, and today many states still limit access on Sundays. In Texas, beer and wine can be sold after 12:00 noon, but only at groceries and convenience stores. Liquor stores (who may also sell beer and wine) are closed (and must also close by 9pm all other days). While a valid argument can be made about limiting access to alcohol late at night, the Sunday argument is on pretty thin ice for any reason other than enforcing religious beliefs of some on many.

Motor vehicle sales are also banned on Sundays in 10 states (including Texas), but today the reasoning is that employees need one day of rest each week. The collective agreement to keep it on Sunday keeps any competitors from having an advantage over the others on that one day of the week. Why Sunday, though?

But the fact remains that blue laws were fully intended to reflect religious beliefs. And this is where this rubs me the wrong way. While I am an active churchgoer, I am in favor of a secular government that allows full religious freedoms. I am opposed to any effort to restrict the purchase and consumption of perfectly legal products on the grounds of religious belief.

One need not look far across the globe to see the oppressive effects of theocracies run amok. The last thing we need is misguided interference in the lives of private citizens.

While I will concede that the majority religion among our nation’s founders is Christianity, we must recognize that our country has grown and evolved considerably. We are now a pluralistic society with countless different religions. In all fairness, should we then extend prohibitions for certain products in honor Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, or Hindu holidays and observations?

I think we all know the answer. You see, I am perfectly capable of making my own moral decisions. If I choose to abstain from shopping, consumption, etc., on particular days, that is my perfect right. I don’t think many Christians would like it if they could not shop from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, in observation of the Jewish Sabbath. But even though the US Supreme Court ruled in 1961 that states could enact blue laws as long as their purpose was not religious, most of the blue laws still on the books are there for that very reason. We do not need mandated days off, nor does the church need an alcohol-free time slot.

It is not fair to limit sales of alcohol on Sunday, and protect Christian churches from this “competitor” on Sunday mornings (or the whole day, depending on where you live). I just hope that those who staunchly support such Sunday prohibitions did not dine out or go shopping today.

Besides, that plank in their eye is not very becoming.

Dr “Shop Free Or Die” Gerlich

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Responses

  1. I LOVED this post. I totally agree!!! I too am a “churchgoer”, but I completely see the need for SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE! I was glad to hear that someone else feels the same way. Well said…


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