Blue Laws are unconstitutional for the simple reason that they are based upon outdated religious prohibitions that interfere with separation of church and state. There is no reason why businesses cannot enact their own hours of operation allowing them to be open on Sundays or not based upon personal preference. Blue Laws otherwise known as “sabbath breaking” rules are now difficult to justify in light of the fact that they are based upon one premise – religious observance.
The U.S. Constitution says that there should be no law which interferes with individual religious freedom. Blue Laws which usually restrict the operation of business on Sundays, on their face, appear to be partial to those who worship on that day. Muslims, Jews, Seventh Day Adventists and others consider the sabbath to fall on another day. This shows that any partiality towards Sunday as being the preferential day to worship unconstitutional per se. Other countries who mingle the religious with the secular mandate the closure of business. In some cases, observance of a whole nation shuttering its doors out of respect for God can be an awesome sight to see and foreigners are often taken off guard by such an overwhelming outpouring of faith on such a grand scale.
Washington State is just one of a handful of states that are coming of age about Blue Laws and like kind. They recently moved liquor sales to general store shelves. Originally enacted in 1909, their Blue Laws were repealed by initiative in November of 1966. It took the Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle to start the ball rolling to repeal. Vendors were to operate seven days a week from June to October which would have conflicted with Washington State’s Blue Laws. (see Peter LeSourd’s excellent essay at HistoryLink.org and the Seattle Daily Times 6/5/1909). Folks have always been conflicted about what we want and what we should want – a day of rest – despite one’s religious rule.
We have recently seen an example of what can happen when workers are asked to work on a day they personally feel should be held sacred when others with a more secular mindset, wishing to shop, frequent restaurants and buy alcohol demand otherwise. Although Thanksgiving is not a religious day, it does hold deeply held feelings about family, hearth and home, not to mention respect toward our nation as a whole, so many employees who were asked to work the Black Friday sales decided to protest. It became particularly pressing when those employees were asked to work Thanksgiving Day. People of faith, no matter which day their sabbath falls upon, feel equally indignant when asked to work on what would otherwise be a day of worship and respect to their Creator. Bosses are often sympathetic, but not always when it hits their pocketbooks.