Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dry Drunk

I grew up in the South, in a dry county, in North Carolina. When I was a child, church was an every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night affair. On Wednesday, we could stop on the way back through town and get cups of cherry vanilla ice cream at Ron and Eddy's restaurant in town, but we couldn't do that-or go out to eat for lunch-on Sunday-because it was the Lord's Day, and my parents thought businesses should be closed. They didn't want to support a business being open on Sunday, so they didn't patronize businesses on Sunday. They also believed that it was wrong to drink alcohol, so they never had any in the house. (Well, with the exception of the homemade muscadine wine the neighbor made, but that was different, just ask my mother.) Now, they never advocated for a ballot measure or for legislation prohibiting business from opening on Sunday or opposing liquor by the drink. It was simple their belief, and they practiced what they preached. (Most of the time... I can remember an occasional Sunday when we might've sinned by going out to lunch-but not many.) My point is this: I don't think that it's a good idea-or even necessary-to codify religious observance, and that's precisely what "blue laws" do. People of faith can practice their beliefs and impact the market place through their personal choices.

In comments about the current debate on whether to allow Sunday liquor sales, Sen. Eric Johnson said, "There doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to chip away at the Sabbath." Sunday is the Sabbath in his religious tradition, and in mine, but it is not the Sabbath for all Georgians. Even if it were, it is the responsibility of communities of faith, not the legislature, to encourage their members to observe the Sabbath. That he, as a legislator, couches it in these terms makes it evident that he is not merely trying to legislate morality. He and others, including Lt. Gov. Cagle, are trying to legislate the practices and beliefs of their specific faith and doing so for political gain, believing that their evangelical base will be more likely to vote for them if they oppose Sunday sales. The use of political power to further a specific religious practice in order to maintain political power just doesn't sound all that righteous to me.

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