Sunday, February 19, 2012

Blue Laws~~Misguided Religious Influence!

When I first moved to North Carolina, in 1986, 'Blue Laws' were in their waining years but were still alive and kicking. Recently I sided with religious organizations and churches over their fight with President Obama over contraception but my hate for these antiquated Blue Laws is a well know fact among people who know me.

A blue law is a type of law, typically found in the United States and, formerly, in Canada, designed to enforce religious standards, particularly the observance of Sunday as a day of worship or rest, and a restriction on Sunday shopping. Most have been repealed, have been declared unconstitutional, or are simply unenforced.

Where I live in North Carolina business was shut down on Sunday and on Wednesday afternoons so people could attend to their spiritual lives.

Simply put, in most places in the south, Blue Laws were an attempt by religious organizations to control peoples religious behavior.

So how do laws like this get passed? Personally I believe that two factors play into their passage. First, many ministers here are activist and run for elected office. Once elected they use their elected office to advance their religious agenda.

Secondly, Ministers, being such a revered member of a community and many times leaders of large congregations, were and still are to some extent feared by their congregants. With the fear of damnation hanging over ones head convincing congregants to vote your way was an easy task.

I experienced the strength, albeit misguided, of ministers in our area in the late 1980's. I lived in a county where liquor by the drink was illegal to sell. People still had to carry a bottle into a place, by the setups(mixers) and consume the entire bottle before they left or have it tossed out. A recipe for drunk drivers for sure.

Late in the 80's our local state representatives pushed a liquor by the drink law through the state legislature. When it passed quite a few business said that they would open in  town, including restaurants, a mall and hotels.

This particular law was unconstitutional as it did require a vote of the people. Our ministers knew this and sued getting the law over turned but the state legislature did call for a vote. So for several months we went back to our old ways while we all waited to vote. This vote broke the stranglehold ministers had on their congregants as liquor by the drink was overwhelmingly passed.

But the result of this several month delay cost us most of that new business and many jobs. A shame as soon after we lost our manufacturing base and are now experiencing high unemployment.

'Separation of Church and State' is a two way street. If churches want the government to stay out of their pews then churches need to stay out of the business of influencing law.

I realize that it would be naive of me to think that either group would tend to their own gardens and stop poaching across each others fences. One can only hope!!


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