Mike Kueber's Blog

September 14, 2012

Blue laws

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Religion — Mike Kueber @ 12:28 am
Tags: ,

While sitting on a friend’s patio in Aneta, ND this past week, he told me about a recent trip to his apartment’s laundry room.  An elderly female neighbor passed by him and asked if he was doing his laundry?  When he confirmed the obvious, she frowned and said, “It is Sunday, you know.”

My first reaction was to laugh nostalgically because I remember growing at a time when my dad felt strongly that a farmer should not work in his fields on Sunday.  And businesses were actually prohibited by state law from operating on Sunday.  When I told my Aneta friend about my dad’s attitude, he informed me that the town’s Lutheran minister several years ago released the farmers to harvest on Sunday because that was important to their livelihood.

Legal prohibitions on businesses from operating on Sunday were called blue laws, and they were endemic to America, Canada, Scandinavia, and Germany.  That explains why Scandinavian/German North Dakota would have some of the strongest blue laws in America.  I remember my dad in his later years voting against authorizing businesses to be open on Sunday.  When I suggested that he could simply avoid doing business with those vendors, Dad responded that he was thinking about the businessman’s employees, who would be forced to work.

In connection with my previous post about secular government and the separation of church and state, one could argue that blue laws breach the constitutional wall of separation.  But the U.S. Supreme Court does not agree.  In 1961 in McGowan v. Maryland, the Court approved blue laws, concluding that despite their religious origin, these laws currently have a legitimate secular, non-religious government objective – i.e. a day of rest.

What are blue laws doing today? 

In my adopted home state of Texas, car dealerships are required to be closed on one day of the weekend, either Saturday or Sunday.  Beer can’t be sold before noon on Sunday and liquor stores must be closed all day Sunday.  

In my home state of North Dakota, most retailers can’t open on Sunday until noon.


1 Comment »

  1. […] is enraged by the prohibition of alcohol sales on Sunday […]

    Pingback by House of Cards; the Pope is a quitter; President’s Day | Whole Shebang Podcast — February 18, 2013 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

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