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October 19, 2005

The Blue law blues

From the Associated Press via the Tennessean...

Spring Hill aldermen are facing a decision over whether to go after do-it-yourself enthusiasts who violate an ordinance banning construction work on Sundays.

According to city code in this Nashville suburb, no construction work of any kind can be done on Sundays. Spring Hill aldermen are now debating just how strict that ordinance is....

The ordinance came up for debate last week after Codes Enforcement Officer Beau Herring ordered some contractors to stop working on a Sunday, only to find a family doing similar work on their home nearby....

"Can we specify no commercial work on Sundays?" Alderman Miles Johnson said.

"What about Seventh-day Adventists?" Alderman Charles Raines said. "They go to church on Saturday."

"What about stating that anything that requires a permit can't be done on Sundays?" Alderman Brandon McCulloch said. "That would take care of larger jobs."

I'm sure there are argument for both sides of the debate about the legitimacy of Blue Laws (although you wouldn't get that impression from many sources on the internet which mindlessly dismiss them as archaic tradition) Just as locations can legitimately be zoned to limit activities there, so days can be. If the majority of the citizens wish a peaceful, quiet Sunday (or Saturday if the case may be) then I fail to see how that's different from zoning a neighborhood residential, and barring businesses in the area.

The problem comes in trying to base the laws on religious observance. Sunday is not the Sabbath, Saturday is. Sunday is the Lord's Day or the day Jesus rose from the dead. When the early Christians faced capture by those who wished to persecute them, they observed that searches were more frequent of Saturday, because that was the Sabbath, and the traditional day to gather for Jews (and Christianity was still considered a form of Judaism by many). So the Christian changed the day to Sunday, to avoid the soldiers.

There's the catch. As a societal day of relaxation, there's a straightforward, more or less non-sectarian foundation for Blue Laws. But as a means of enforcing a tradition started by people who were avoiding an abusive legal authority...well can we all admit that there's quite a bit of irony there?

Posted by Danny Carlton at October 19, 2005 05:50 AM

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