Bring Back the Blue Laws

Saturday, August 28, 2010

If you're under a certain age, then you don't remember a time when stores were closed on Sundays. Imagine running out of milk. Sorry, you're out of luck. You'd have to borrow it from a neighbor until the grocery store reopened on Monday. There was no such thing as department stores advertising early openings and special Sunday sales in the morning paper - they simply weren't open for business. The practice of keeping businesses closed on Sundays was known here in the States as the "blue laws." Although I am unsure about the color choice, sources say the rule goes back to Puritan times, when a day of rest was mandated on Sundays so that people would be able to attend religious services. Because of their close association with religion, they were slowly considered more and more unconstitutional towards the end of the 20th century, and today pretty much every state in America no longer enforces them.

I'm all for bringing them back. I realize this may inconvenience a lot of people, but hear me out. I believe the benefits of reinstating "closed on Sundays" would be beneficial to us all. I know of at least one person who would agree with me - Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. He wrote a book called The Blessing of Enough where he discusses how obsessed our current society has become with acquiring material wealth, while we're missing out on what really matters in life. In a related blog post that he wrote for The Huffington Post, the good rabbi remembers when all stores were closed on Sundays - not only to provide a day off for retail workers, but to give people time to reconnect with their family and friends. Today, he says, even on the most glorious of days, most people it seems would rather spend time filling their eyeballs with the flourescent lights of the mall or the local Home Depot on a Sunday, instead of doing something that matters. He also believes having such unlimited access to being able to shop and spend at any time has definitely contributed to our materialism and economic state, and it has created a nation of dull people who no longer have any hobbies.

The way the rabbi and I see it, here's what the benefits of reinstating the blue laws would be:

1. Reduced Sunday Traffic
How peaceful it would be if stores were closed on Sunday again. No one hitting the roads early for those early morning specials. There might also be less obnoxious advertising in the Sunday papers.

2. More Time to Spend With, Not Spend On
Before the repeal of the blue laws, people would attend religious services, then share a meal with family and/or friends. Without a place to go to needlessly spend their money, people might actually rekindle more productive activities and get a life towards the end of the weekend.

3. A Break for Service People
Take it from someone who worked in the hotel industry for over five years - anyone working a service job deserves a guaranteed day off each week. OK, hotels are open 24/7 but retail workers should get a break like the rest of us. Even most banks are now open on Sundays - which proves just how little anything is sacred anymore.

A New Jersey mayor tried to argue with Boteach that keeping stores closed for even one day hurts the economy. Boteach explained that when 9/11 happened, Bush instructed the American people to "go to Disney World" and essentially spend their money. We know how well that advice turned out. Our enormous spending has not only put us in tremendous debt but has led to a spiritual deficit as well. Americans don't seem to have many hobbies these days or appreciate how it feels to spend time with other humans. 

Of course the downside to bringing back the blue laws is that the stores and roads will suddenly be flooded with even more people during the work week and on Saturdays. But in my opinion, that's a small price to pay for one day of mandatory sanity every seven days. 


  1. I would love to see this too. I live far away from most stores and it is rare for me to ever go shopping or need something on a Sunday. I have learned to just live without it for the day, or be prepared and have it ahead of time if I think I might need it. We are a crazy, spoiled rotten society where this matters.

    I like the idea, but what would our government say. Dear goodness imagine what the stock market would do if we reinstated the blue laws. It would probably drop 1000 points or more in one day with news like that.

    Earnings off, gross national product off, store revenue off. etc.

    Sometimes I think there is no returning to life as it was...but I could...and wish the rest of the nation could too.

  2. I'm usually homeward bound on Sundays too. I kind of wish I went to more brunches. As long as some good eats are available, I'm into it! :)

    I always call Sunday "International Lazy Day," because that's my day to recharge, and I think if we didn't feel like we had to be in the mix all the time, more people would take a step back and breathe.

  3. I remember those days, the stillness on Sundays, even traveling miles to the only gas station open near the interstate, and living in an old resort town that "rolled up the sidewalks" on Sat. after 5pm and Sunday (it still does in many ways). It was painful only sometimes, like getting a tire repaired, but we realized the social costs and dealt with it.
    I have literally proposed the return to this ideal in my circle after some proudly proclaimed that unbounded Impatience, and no planning, as virtuous and acceptable. But I was surprised how many people *violently* disagreed. Workers proclaimed they simply MUST have their overtime, others MUST buy what they want WHEN they want. And others simply MUST have others keeping their businesses open, and, how DARE you tell them what to do with their property/employees!? Regardless of the impact to society.

  4. We live by this rule at our house. If we are out of milk on Sunday, then we just do without. I don't go to the hardware store or the auto parts store. We plan ahead or do without. We don't go out to eat after church, we have leftovers or sandwiches. There are exceptions, like when we are on a trip or have just returned from a few days in the hospital, but we use this as our general rule. I always have to state that I don't judge others who don't make the same choice.

  5. I remember the days when everything was closed on Sundays (back when I lived in Canada...because we didn't adopt Sunday openings until MUCH later)....

    I personally am glad to see businesses like Hobby Lobby and Chic-Fil-A (however that's spelled) CLOSED on Sundays.

  6. I totally agree wit the blue laws!
    Although here in France, working is "officially" against the working laws, there as been more and more exceptions and now all supermarkets are open on Sunday mornings, big shopping centers are open all day on Sunday, and in Paris, many small shops open on Sundays too...

  7. I remember the blue laws when I was growing up. I totally agree with you. I'd love to see them come back. Sunday should be a different type of day than the rest of the week.

  8. Great comments, guys...I realize getting paid overtime makes it too attractive to too many people. However, I wish at the very least most stores - including supermarkets - were closed on major holidays. The workers deserve a day off with their families and loved ones.

  9. Up until recently, liquor stores were closed on Sundays in Colorado. Car dealerships are still not allowed to open here. I for one wouldn't mind these laws. I would LOVE to have a TRUE day to relax, unwind, and reconnect with my family. As it sits now.. I work on Sundays, and it's a major DRAG!

  10. I don't agree with the blue laws because Sabbath is on Saturday.Im a Christian who has been igorant to this for years.But I agree with the Bible.This is the beginning of Sorrow.

  11. this is stupid


Powered by Blogger.