Tyrades! Law Sung Blue, Everybody Knows One

Friday, March 6, 2009

Remember when most Americans thought of Sunday as "The Lord's Day?" Now it is fast becoming "The State Comptroller's Day."

According to Time magazine, the current recession may put the finishing touches on the nation's remaining "blue laws." Blue laws, of course, are those edicts (rooted in Puritanism and Prohibition) that restrict alcohol sales, and other retail transactions or recreational activities on Sunday. Since 2002, 13 states have repealed alcohol-related blue laws. Some 15 others still have blue laws, but the allure of tax money is wearing down legislative resistance.

I must admit a certain admiration for those indomitable spirits who have helped blue laws survive into the 21st century. It's refreshing to see the quaint notion of valuing principle over filthy lucre. Unfortunately, science says I'm wrong. More and more state legislators across the land are realizing that three things separate man from the lower beasts: the opposable thumb; the power of speech; and the power to make spur-of-the-moment weekend alcohol purchases.

We must bow to multiculturalism. This is not a homogenous Christian nation. Not everyone believes in a day of rest. Of course, not everyone believes in driving 15 miles per hour in a school zone, either. Speed on, brother!

Conservative groups have done a poor job of educating people about the origins and benefits of even a secular day of rest. ("I think the tradition has something to do with Washington tossing a silver dollar over the Potomac and having six more weeks of winter.")

Most churches have adapted to the reality of modern shopping patterns and ideas of morality. Unfortunately, most states have a more tenuous grip on reality. Citizens are overweight, struggling with diabetes, and sinking in debt. So of course the solution is to make it easier for them to run out and grab a brew! We need some new state nicknames, like "The Show Me (The Donor Liver) State."

Of course Sunday alcohol sales are just a Band-Aid for money-hungry states. When things get tight again, they'll go back to looking for scapegoats. ("If only we could sell liquor eight days a week! Those *&%$ religious nuts and their 7-day week!")

An extra day of excise tax on alcohol would bring millions of extra dollars into state coffers, but I hope the states don't think that money is coming out of thin air. A study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics says that states where blue laws have been repealed have seen a 15 percent decline in attendance among weekly churchgoers and a nearly 25 percent drop in donations. (The lawmakers can boast, "We haven't saved any souls, but we've done a splendid job of saving the governor's new carpet!")

I guess it's inevitable that the last of the blue laws will disappear over the next decade or so. And those who struggled under the rigors of the system will regale their grandchildren with tales of the Hard Times. ("We had to drive to the liquor store on Saturdays -- uphill both ways!")

I'm sure if Jesus Christ were walking the earth today, he would sympathize with those who chafe under the idea of a day set aside for solemn reflection. ("I can't imagine anything more inconvenient than having liquor stores closed at church time-- unless it's, I don't know, these nail prints in my hands and feet!!!") Or not.

Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at tyreetyrades@yahoo.com.