Blue law

From Academic Kids

A blue law, in the United States and Canada, is a law restricting activities or sales of goods on Sunday, which had its roots in accommodating Christian Sunday worship, although it persists to this day more as a matter of tradition.

The term blue law was first used by Reverend Samuel Peters in his book General History of Connecticut, which was first published in 1781, to refer to various laws first enacted by Puritan colonies in the 17th century which prohibited the selling of certain types of merchandise and retail or business activity of any kind on certain days of the week (usually Sunday). In Texas, for example, blue laws prohibited selling housewares such as pots, pans, and washing machines on Sunday until 1985; Texas car dealerships continue to operate under blue-law prohibitions. Many U.S. states still prohibit selling alcohol on Sunday. Many unusual features of American culture — such as the fact that one can buy groceries, office supplies, and housewares from a drug store — are the result of blue laws, as drug stores were generally allowed to remain open on Sunday to accommodate emergency medical needs. The ubiquitous "weekend" is also a result of blue laws, although it is practiced nearly worldwide.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence to support the assertion that the blue laws were originally printed on blue paper. Rather, the word blue was commonly used in the 18th century as a disparaging reference to rigid moral codes and those who observed them (e.g., "bluenoses"). Moreover, although Reverend Peters claimed that the term blue law was originally used by Puritan colonists, his work has since been found to be unreliable, and it is more likely that he simply invented the term himself. In any event, Peters never asserted that the blue laws were originally printed on blue paper, and this has come to be regarded as an example of fake etymology. Another version is that the laws were first bound in books with blue covers.

Canadian author Robertson Davies, in The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks (1947), wrote the following about Daylight Saving Time: "I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind ... At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme, I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy, and wise in spite of themselves."

It is highly likely that all blue laws stem from the first such statute set down by the Emperor Constantine 1300 years before the Puritans:

"Let all judges and all city people and all tradesmen rest upon the venerable day of the sun. But let those dwelling in the country freely and with full liberty attend to the culture of their fields; since it frequently happens that no other day is so fit for the sowing of grain, or the planting of vines; hence, the favorable time should not be allowed to pass, lest the provisions of heaven be lost." — Given the seventh of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls, each for the second time. A.D. 321.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] (1 S.C.R. 295) ruled that the 1906 Lord's Day Act, that required most places to be closed on Sunday did not have a legitimate secular purpose, and was an unconstitutional attempt to establish a religious-based closing law in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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