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.