Spirit of The Laws: Sunday Laws Further Considered

In a recent response to Josh Frey’s article on Sunday Laws, Mr. Dominy outlined for us the vices of Sunday Laws. With the fear readers may think this is the answer to the question, I feel inclined to address some of Mr. Dominy’s arguments to show why these laws may in fact help facilitate human flourishing at the expense of market economics.

The central point of Mr. Dominy’s argument is that these laws would “remove from business owners the right to signal their virtues to the public, and from the public the right to act upon those signals.” This concern mimics that of Roger Scruton’s characterization of homo economicus--a man too preoccupied with the cost-benefit analysis of rights and markets to be bothered with the souls of others. Yes, businesses have a right to express their principles as a company, that is not the question; but when it is universally accepted that all stores be open on Sundays, only companies who have the resources to virtue signal end up closing, and to date, only one major company has closed its doors on Sundays: Chick Fil A. So it seems that this free-market fantasy works only in theory; but in practice, looks more like the big-shops being able to do what they please, while the Mom-and-Pop stores who work every day of the week just to turn a small profit are in a way coerced to stay open on weekends to let all those who work 9-5 jobs have some leisure. Do they not deserve a day of rest? Or do we as a society say, “you need to stay open on Sunday for me.”

For those who do want to twiddle their thumbs calculating the economic costs of Sunday Laws, I will help you by letting you know that it is not yet known (since most Sunday Laws were repealed before modern data analytics) whether that day’s commerce would be spread out to Friday or Saturday, or whether we would lose that altogether. The cost when stores stay open, instead, is a human one, specifically the increase of drug and alcohol use on Sundays. This would lead many more into addiction, further deteriorating the family and society.  

Mr. Dominy’s contention that Mr. Frey was signaling out a particular type of Christian worship that observes Sunday as a holy day seems a bit weak. We all know that the exception is not the rule, and in this case it is no different. The examples he cites make up 2% of the American population, with Jews making up 1.7% of that statistic. What Mr. Dominy fails to realize in his citation is that we as Americans are a culture, and as such, ascribe to certain truths (and if we are to believe Mr. Madison, the principle of republican government is majority rule). Sunday laws are not impositions from some tyrannical majority, but rather the freedom from work which allows Man to consider his ends, not just Christians. Setting apart Sunday allows Man to ask that perennial question: “what do you do when everything else is done?” The day of rest (which God, the creator of all that is, even took) allows us as human beings to wonder at existence itself and to wonder what our ultimate rest will be.

Ultimately one needs to ask: what is more important; that businesses be able to “virtue signal” or that citizens develop actual virtue? While Mr. Dominy would argue the former, I will gladly argue the latter.