Written in scarlet crayon before bedtime
There is something which has been bugging me for the past couple of years (and I actually probably have written about before… I at least contributed to the Wikipedia entry on this topic) which I would like a fellow PoliSci or Law person to help me out on, particularly one who lives or studies in a Puritan (aka: New England) state. These states, as well as many in the Bible Belt have something known as Blue Laws, which are laws which prohibit certain acts on Sundays, “the Lord’s Day” (which, if you realize my religion from the regular content of my blog, you posit I might dispute the definition of the first day of the week as such, which may come into play as my raison d’etat for my crusade (again, based on my religion, an ironic term)). At its influential height, most work was prohibited in the colonies on the Christian Sabbath, the penalty probably being either a couple of shillings or death by hanging (the former being the penalty at fair old Kings College according to research for the most practically useless class I took at Columbia (actually, Barnard) called “A Social History of Columbia University” (no offense to Professor McCaughey, I really enjoyed the class, but I don’t see a use for it out of the Columbiana Archive or in trivia circles regarding the chronicles of our fine alma mater). Sundaes, according to the docent at the now defunct World of Coca-Cola museum in Las Vegas (though I hear there is still one in the Coke Capital, Atlanta), were invented due to the fact that soft drinks (soda) was forbidden on Sundays during Prohibition because, with liquor being illegal 24/7/365.2422, they had to make something specially illegal on the Sabbath.
Nowadays these states only have laws prohibiting sale of alcohol on Sundays, New York for example has the prohibition on Sunday mornings. I don’t think they put you into the stocks but there is probably a fine or threat on your liquor license.
My question: is this constitutional? Am I, as a non-Christian, allowed to sell liquor (assuming I have a liquor license and a bodega) on the day after my Sabbath on a day known in my tradition and in Israel as the first day of the work week? It’s Super Bowl Sunday or any other important football game I want to watch with friends and I forgot to buy the booze during the week. Can’t I buy a keg in the morning so I have time to put the turducken into the oven?
My first exposure to Blue Laws came in the cult classic movie, PCU (which reminds me: SNAKES ON A mother-f’n PLANE! TODAY!) and even then I thought that there’s something wrong with these laws, mostly because it caused pain on the protagonist characters, wrong as their intentions may have been, you still root for them.
I hope this provokes some discussion (not PCU, but the other stuff) on this last bastion of puritanical punishment for a seemingly arbitrary violation of Sabbath law (In Judaism, alcohol is a very important part of the Sabbath. 3-plus kiddushes over wine (Manischewitz, by the way, became very popular during prohibition and more people went to church (for Manischewitz which apparently is the most popular wine in the world due to the eucharist (Jewish blood apparently demands Jewish wine)) for the only legal source of booze in the country), and just go to any Chabad House for Shabbat Dinner and join in one of their many l’chayims. Obviously you can’t buy alcohol on the Shabbat, but it is so vital to the modern Shabbat experience.
In modern Christianity, in which it seems that all manner of work is down on Sunday even by the religious (correct me if I am wrong, but I see people in Harlem go from church to shops on 125th Street), this prohibition of the sale of alcohol seems to be token and arbitrary and remains in my mind a blatant violation of the First Amendment and separation of Church and State.
What do you think?