Bye-Bye, Blue Laws?
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With diversity up and the economy down, these Sabbatarian statutes could be coming off the books.
"Blue laws" do not appear in the indices of any of the American church history survey texts on my shelf (I looked), but in many parts of the country these quirky codes are some of the most enduring reminders of a bygone era. You can't buy a car at a dealership on Sunday in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin. Rules governing purchases of alcohol on the Lord's Day are far more complicated. On Sundays, you can't buy alcohol between 4 and 8 a.m. in New York (but if you want to get blasted before the late church service, go right ahead), between 2 and 10 a.m. in Arizona, before noon in Michigan, or at any time in several states. In some places, you can buy beer or wine, but not liquor, on Sundays, and in others, you can buy warm drinks but not cold. And, of course, almost no one gets mail on Sunday - unless you live in Seventh-day Adventist enclave Loma Linda, California, where you can't get mail on Saturday instead.
All of this could be changing soon, with potentially considerable consequences.
Though the etymology is murky, the "blue" in "blue laws" seems to refer not to blue paper or blue-bound law books but to a pejorative descriptor for Puritans, as in bluenose and blueblood. Puritans do not entirely deserve their reputation as killjoys, but they did take their Sabbath seriously, restricting trade, travel, entertainment, and sex, among other things. They did not, however, originally forbid drinking on Sunday. Those laws came later, after alcoholic beverages grew more potent and water supplies were purified.
Health and holiness were ...