Blue Laws Matter

The government of Poland recently passed a law that will slowly phase out Sunday shopping between now and 2020. By closing stores on Sunday, Poland allows its citizens time to focus on their familial and religious obligations. Without compelling church attendance, this law establishes a cultural more that Sundays ought to be reserved for something other than commerce. Through this law, the Polish government gently guides its people towards virtue.

Similar laws restricting commercial activity on Sundays, commonly called blue laws, were once commonplace in America but have mostly been repealed in the name of economic freedom. Some states used to restrict nearly all shopping, while many other states outlawed only the sale of alcohol on Sundays. A revival of blue laws in America could help reduce the frenzied commercialism of our culture.

Despite the advanced stage of our economy, most Americans spend more time at work than their parents did. Additionally, far fewer American attend church today than did a generation ago, partly due to difficulty finding the time and are discovering that they are too busy to spend time with their family. This busyness reveals much about America's cultural priorities. People are finding more time to work than previous generations but sacrificing their relationships with God and their family in order to do so.

Reviving blue laws would not be enough to solve this problem. They are limited in their effectiveness as an antidote because they do not address the root problem, which are misorded cultural priorities. Blue laws could help guide the culture in such a way that people realize the value of Church and family.

Some might object that the government should not care about church attendance. They would claim that this contradicts the freedom of religion established by the first amendment. This objection, however, misunderstands the meaning of the amendment. The first amendment prohibits the establishment of a religion. This means that Congress cannot make Lutheranism, Catholicism, or any other religion a state religion. Laws like this do not come close to doing that. Instead, they simply increase the opportunity for people to attend church. Closing businesses on Sundays would also provide a public reminder that Sunday is unique and ought to be treated as such. Citizens would be forced to reflect on the meaning of the sabbath every time they drive past a deserted Wal-Mart parking lot on a Sunday afternoon.

Would this result in massive cultural changes overnight? Of course not. However, it would provide Americans with an opportunity to take a break from their busy schedule once a week and spend time with their families, go to church, or otherwise enjoy their day in a way that has nothing to do with commerce. As people become accustomed to this, we would likely see a slow change in the way Americans value their time, which would be a small, yet important, way to fight declining Church attendance and strengthen families.