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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Itís Time For Blue Laws To Go, But...
Jimmy Moore
November 25, 2002

Proponents of the blue laws in Spartanburg may be singing the blues very soon if a community business leader has his way.

The Spartanburg Herald-Journal (enter "blue laws" in the search field to find the article) reported on Friday that the general manager of WestGate Mall in Spartanburg is trying to get the blue laws abolished so his merchants will be allowed to be open for business on Sunday mornings.

This isnít the first time Ron Thomas has attempted to do something about the blue laws. Just
last October he pleaded his case to the Spartanburg City Council about abolishing the blue laws during the month of December. Apparently, Thomas is now ready to challenge the controversial laws during the other eleven months of the year, too!

According to The Columbia Encyclopedia (enter "blue laws" in the search field to find the origin), blue laws legislation, which involves regulating both public and private conduct on the Sabbath, were first used during the 17th-century when there were several colonies under a theocratic form of government. The laws that were applied to the Sabbath were known as "blue laws" primarily because of the blue paper they were written on. Opponents of blue laws say they are archaic and should be eliminated.

However, if Thomas is going to be successful at getting the blue laws abolished in Spartanburg, then he is going to need a lot of help from the members of the Spartanburg County Council or from the citizens of Spartanburg County. According to last weekís minutes from the Spartanburg County Council meeting, the subject of the blue laws was never even brought up.

In order for this issue to be placed on the ballot to be voted on, members of the Spartanburg County Council would have to be in favor of it or a petition would need to be submitted to the voter registration office with the signatures of at least 15% of the countyís registered voters, which amounts to around 22,000 signatures.

The last time a referendum was held on the issue of the blue laws was 1996. Voters chose to keep them in place. Of course, opponents claim the referendum was confusing to voters (did all these confused voters then move to Florida in time to vote in the 2000 election?).

Thomas thinks the time is right to try another referendum. He believes it would be successful this time around because there are so many different people living in Spartanburg now that were not living here six years ago (myself included) when the blue laws remained unchanged. Thomas believes the public sentiment is firmly against the blue laws.

The main objection that Thomas has to the blue laws is that they target specific types of retailers and put them in an inequitable business position with neighboring cities. At least Thomas has one member of the Spartanburg Council who agrees with him on this issue.

Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt says he does not object to having another binding referendum that clearly states one of two options: ĎI vote to keep the blue lawsí or ĎI donít vote to keep the blue laws.í Britt says this would end the confusion for voters.

With all due respect to the Spartanburg County Councilman, I do not think the issue of abolishing the blue laws is that simple. This may surprise you, but although I attend church on Sunday mornings because of my religious faith, I am actually in FAVOR of repealing the blue laws legislation so that retailers will be allowed to be open on Sunday mornings.

This is America where freedom reigns and personal choice about the way you conduct your life is your business. If a business owner feels he needs to be open for business on Sundays in order to remain profitable, then more power to him. Yet, there are other businesses, like Chick-Fil-A for example, that seem to do pretty well overall despite the fact that they are closed all day on Sundays.

Nevertheless, itís time for blue laws to go, but...

My concern with repealing the blue laws pertains to the employees who would have to work during the Sunday morning shift. If a Christian employee wants to go to church on Sunday morning, then he should not have to work. If a simple yes or no vote on the blue laws were held, then this particular facet of the issue would not be addressed.

There needs to be specific language included in the referendum that would speak to this issue simultaneously. It could even be another ballot initiative completely (i.e. if the blue laws are repealed, then I would be in favor of reasonable accommodations being made for employees who would like to attend religious services on Sunday mornings). In fact, a Greenville woman just won a court case against her employer who would not allow her to have Sundays off.

The Greenville News reported on Friday that the store manager of a Liíl Cricket Food Store will receive a $15,000 discrimination lawsuit settlement because she was fired for asking for Sundays off to attend church. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said that employers must allow their employees who want to attend religious services on Sunday mornings to be able to do so without jeopardizing their employment. As a result, Liíl Cricket must now develop new policies, programs and training to accommodate people with religious beliefs. If the blue laws are repealed and this issue is not considered, then look for these kind of cases to increase. I urge everyone involved in the debate to address this issue when discussing the fate of the blue laws.

Send Ron Thomas your feedback about how you feel about his position on the blue laws. Sooner or later, the blue laws will be repealed. As long as employees are given provisions that will allow them to attend church on Sunday mornings if they so desire, then I believe the blue laws will be history much sooner than later.

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Jimmy: This is about as reasonable as you get. Couple of points: I think the notion of a day of rest has some real positives for individuals and society. The arbitrary restrictions do little to promote the day of rest notion, and the exceptions have virtually swallowed any positives that might have come with blue laws. . . .

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