blue laws

Why you can buy a beer in North Dakota on Sunday morning but not a belt at Wal-Mart

Why you can buy a beer in North Dakota on Sunday morning but not a belt at Wal-Mart

On a reporting trip to North Dakota last year, I woke up bright and early Sunday and enjoyed a not-so-healthy breakfast at McDonald's.

When I finished eating, I had an hour to kill before services at the Bismarck church I was covering for The Christian Chronicle. Since I was driving that afternoon to Black Hills Bible Camp in South Dakota, I decided to visit the closest Wal-Mart. I needed to buy a few snacks and supplies.

But when I got to the Wal-Mart — which looked just like the 24-hour supercenter near my home in Oklahoma City — I found the parking lot strangely empty. Even odder, the store's automatic doors refused to open for me. Weird, I thought.

However, Google Maps quickly located a Super Target just down the street. I discovered that it, too, was closed.

I was reminded of my experience when The Associated Press reported this week that North Dakota is debating whether to lift its Sunday morning shopping ban.

Of course, there's a strong religion angle — and kudos to AP for stressing it:

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota residents can order alcohol at a restaurant or bar late Sunday morning but must wait until afternoon to go shopping because of a ban — rooted in religious tradition — that some legislators say no longer makes much sense.
Critics of the nation's strictest so-called blue law began another effort Monday to strip it from the books. Some such restrictions have existed since North Dakota became a state in 1889, stemming from fears that visiting a retail store on Sunday morning would compete with church and erode family values, leaving little time for rest.
"I'm annoyed that I have to wait until Sunday afternoon to shop," said Fargo Democratic Rep. Pam Anderson, who has introduced legislation that would abolish the shopping restrictions. She said ending the prohibition would add tax revenue for the state and provide more employment opportunities.
A House committee began mulling the bill on Monday but took no immediate action. Anderson called it a "falsehood" that allowing Sunday morning sales would impact the number of people in the pews.

I'm not certain the politician seeking the law's repeal is the best source to assess whether Sunday morning sales would hurt church attendance.

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Give it a rest: On #ElectionDay, a pretty kitty picture and a reminder of simpler times

Give it a rest: On #ElectionDay, a pretty kitty picture and a reminder of simpler times

We interrupt Election Day — and all the stress from the divisiveness of the 2016 presidential race — with a picture of a pretty kitty.

I'd like to dedicate this post to my friend Summer Heil, a cat lover and regular GetReligion reader.

While we give politics a rest — just for a brief moment — it seems like an appropriate time to highlight a recent feature by Boston Globe religion writer Lisa Wangsness.

The headline:

And on the seventh day, many don’t rest at all

Now, there's a bit of confusion here because the seventh day is Saturday, while the story's opening focuses on how Sunday, the first day of week, used to be a time of rest. However, most readers will understand the headline's reference to the Jewish Sabbath, which is the seventh day of the week. 

The lede sets the scene:

People over age 40 can remember a time when, because of blue laws — the Colonial-era prohibitions against commercial activities on Sundays — most stores were closed and very little aside from praying, newspaper-reading, and loafing around happened on Sunday mornings.
That changed as blue laws were repealed or went unenforced in the late 20th century and as many denominations relaxed their rules.
But now, some people are looking longingly at the religious structures that once forced even the nonreligious to take time to relax and enjoy life, and experimenting with ways to embrace something like the Sabbath to help authorize a day away from workaday concerns.
As the psychotherapist and minister Wayne Muller has written, in the Hebrew tradition, the Sabbath is not an option or a lifestyle suggestion, but “a commandment, right next to ‘Do not kill’ and ‘Do not steal’ and ‘Do not lie.’ ”

In case you're unfamiliar with the term, "blue laws" were called that because they were written on blue paper, as I noted in a 2003 Associated Press story. Why were they written on blue paper? That, I couldn't tell you ...

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Ten religion stories that made us ooh, ah, chuckle, scratch our heads and otherwise go 'hmmm' in 2015

Ten religion stories that made us ooh, ah, chuckle, scratch our heads and otherwise go 'hmmm' in 2015

Religion news was heavy in 2015.

Heavy, as in weighty subject matter ranging from the legalization of same-sex marriage to the atrocities committed by the Islamic State terrorist group to the shooting deaths of nine worshipers in Charleston, S.C. 

But occasionally this past year — as is the case every year — the Godbeat blessed us with headlines that were a little different. They were heartwarming or quirky or simply far enough off the beaten path to catch our attention.

In chronological order, here are 10 of my favorite GetReligion posts from 2015 that concerned news that — surprise, surprise! — didn't make the Religion Newswriters Association's year-end list:

1. Lawmakers in my home state of Oklahoma made headlines as they considered — seriously, it seemed — getting out of the marriage business.


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Blue laws and blue ghosts: Story on Sunday business closings lacks religious voices

Blue laws and blue ghosts: Story on Sunday business closings lacks religious voices

I've spent the last few days "Where the West Begins" — in Fort Worth, Texas.

I've eaten some chicken-fried steak, waited for roughly 300 trains to pass — typically at speeds slower than cattle — and enjoyed quality time with my parents, brother and sister, all of whom call Cowtown home.

After Mom grabbed the coupons from Sunday's Fort Worth Star-Telegram, I noticed this banner, front-page headline: "Through with blue laws?"

The subhead in the print edition:

Lawmakers look at easing longtime limits on Sunday sales of cars and liquor

I hate to jump ahead, but anybody think there might be a religion angle on this story?

Let's start at the top:

Texans are nothing if not loyal to the past.

But some are starting to wonder whether all ties to the past need to be honored.

Take Sunday blue laws.

The laws, enacted decades ago to limit what people can do or buy on Sundays, required people to attend church and prevented the sale of items such as knives, nails and washing machines.

Most of the laws were repealed in 1985, but two remain: Vehicles can’t be sold on consecutive weekend days, and package liquor sales are banned on Sundays.

Now lawmakers have revived proposals to eliminate the car sales ban and to eat around the edges of the liquor sales prohibition.

“At one time, some enterprises could not even open one day on weekends, either Saturday or Sunday,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Sundays were usually very quiet with few large stores open.

“Now, Sundays are much like other days,” he said. “It is not surprising that some strong conservatives would introduce laws eliminating blue laws.”

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