But how about those spiffy MODERN blue laws?

Got a release today from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, calling my attention to a NYT editorial headlined "A Dry Sunday in Connecticut," and saying that in case I wanted to write anything about Sunday sales of liquor, to consider the following:

  • Archaic Blue Laws make no sense in a 21st-century economy where Sunday has become the second-busiest shopping day of the week.
  • Beer, wine and spirits are already permitted for on-premise consumption at bars and restaurants seven days a week.  Allowing the sale of beer, wine and spirits at off-premise retail outlets on Sunday would simply give adult consumers more choices and added convenience.
  • The state will benefit from the increased tax revenues generated by an additional day of package store sales.  Contrary to some who believe that Sunday sales will just spread six days of sales over seven, recent implementation of Sunday Sales in 12 states (Colorado’s repeal was too recent for data) shows that in 2006 Sunday sales generated $212 million in new sales for retailers.  This figure is expected to increase annually.  See economic analysis of those states here.
  • No legislation forces any package store to open on Sundays. It simply gives store owners the right to decide for themselves which days to open. 
  • Sunday liquor sales will not lead to increased drunk driving.  According to an analysis using government data on alcohol-related fatalities, there is no statistical difference in states that allow Sunday liquor sales compared to those that do not.

Which provokes me to say,

  • First, we have no plans to do any editorials on the subject. I doubt we would reach consensus, partly because I'm such a mossback. I miss having a day of rest, so pretty much anything that is still proscribed on Sunday, I'm for keeping it. And before you secularists have a fit and fall in it about "establishment of religion," yadda-yadda, I don't much care which day of the week you pick. Make it Tuesday, if that makes you feel less threatened and oppressed. Just pick a day on which we can all kick back and not be expected to run around and get things done, just because we can. And don't give me that stuff about how I don't have to shop just because the stores are open. Yes, I do. There is so much pressure on my time that I can't possibly get everything expected of me done in six days, and if you give me a seventh on which to do them, I'll have to use it. And if you don't understand that, there's no point it our talking about it. The only way to have a day of rest is for there to be a day in which we roll up the sidewalks, so to speak, and everybody understands that you couldn't do it that day, so they don't expect you to. Now I know we're not going back to those days, but I am not inclined to add anything else to the list of stuff going on 24/7. You remind me that "Sunday has become the second-busiest shopping day of the week," and you think that's an argument for doing something else on Sunday? You're kidding, right? It just makes me tired thinking about it. Get somebody else to write your editorial; you're barking up the wrong tree with me. And all of you kids, get off of my lawn! Dagnabit.
  • Is your use of the term "archaic blue laws" meant to suggest that there's another category of spiffy, modern blue laws that you don't mind so much? Or are you just being redundant?
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but your point about increased tax revenues means that people will be buying more liquor, right? I see how that's a good thing for you and the fine folks at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, but how is that a good thing for the rest of us?
  • Yeah, right — nobody would be forced to open on Sunday. This reminds me of when I worked in Jackson, TN, and the owner of the largest department store in town fought against lifting the blue laws because he said that if you lifted them, the big chain stores would come to town and drive him out of business. Besides, he liked giving his workers Sunday off. And he was Jewish, by the way. The newspaper ignored him (even though he was its biggest advertiser, for those of you who keep track of such things) and kept advocating for lifting blue laws, that eventually happened, the big chain stores came to town, he had to open on Sundays, and he soon went out of business anyway. When it comes to competition, folks, "choice" can be a myth. If your competitors are all doing it, you have to.
  • I'll take your word for it on the drunk driving. Although it seems a bit weird that you'd be selling MORE liquor (remember the tax revenues thing), but people won't be driving drunk more. Whatever.

Just look upon me as a disgruntled beer drinker — one who was perfectly happy buying enough on Saturday to make it through the weekend, and thinks anybody who wasn't organized enough or self-aware enough to know ahead of time that he might want a beer on Sunday is pretty pathetic. Dagnabit.

44 thoughts on “But how about those spiffy MODERN blue laws?

  1. h

    I didn’t go to Greens today for gin and beer. Does that mean today was my “day of rest?” So, I should then be able to buy it on Sunday?
    Your day of rest thing is nice for you. Enjoy it in the stone age. But it’s not for me.
    So keep your personal mores off my Sunday gin purchase. Thank Coble I live in Columbia and can at least buy beer and wine on that just another day of the week for me.

  2. Rich

    h, I agree. The blue laws are an establishment of religion, and religiously based laws have no place in a modern, secular, and liberal representative democracy.

  3. David

    Of course! Let’s do it because the state might realize a bump in the tax take.
    I love this kind of thinking.
    Here’s a hint: The Distilled Spirits Council doesn’t give a solitary damn about tax collection, the coarsening of society and loosening of morals,, increased incidence of drunken driving or anything else.
    They care about increased revenues for distillers. Period. No matter what that increase may cost society.

  4. XXX

    Here’s to a good glass of port while reading a book of Byzantine history on a warm and cozy Sunday afternoon while the peasants are watching football and our wives are out shopping at the “Village” at Sandhills!

  5. KP

    The only argument that seems persuasive to me is that it’s kind of discriminatory to ban ABC sales on Sunday, since pretty much nothing else is still proscribed. You can definitely get most of your to-do list done after church if you want to, unless it involves shopping at one of the smaller stores that choose not to open. And you can buy all the liquor you want as long as you do it over your eggs benedit at a restaurant — even, finally, right here in Florence.
    I don’t care one way or the other, though. If you can’t stock up on Saturday and you can’t live til Monday, you’ve got a different problem altogether.

  6. bud

    Brad, it sounds like you want to retain the Blue Laws simply because it is for your convenience. Sorry, that’s pretty selfish. Blue laws for all goods and services should go. I’ll leave it for others to elaborate the reasons. This one is so completely and utterly obvious it doesn’t warrant an extended discussion.

  7. Doug Ross

    “I got nothin'” would have been more persuasive.
    The fact that we pay politicians to sit around and debate the merits of whether to sell alcohol in stores during a specific period of time is silly. Do they not have anything better to do?

  8. David

    I don’t touch alcohol, but I can assure you it’d take a good deal more than a glass of port to get me to read Byzantine history.

  9. Bart

    The book of Genesis describes God’s creation of the world for the first 6 days and on the 7th day, He rested. The Ten Commandments tells us to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. The context of the commandment is that after working 6 days, we need a day of rest and worship. I think even most athiests and agnostics are familiar with it.
    This country was settled by people looking for religious freedom, not religious oppression. They were looking for a place where they could worship without being subjected to a state religion or an official religion of the realm. Therein lies the beauty of America.
    You can go to church on Sunday if you choose. You can go home without stopping at a restaurant, convenience store, department store, or supermarket if you choose to adhere strictly to God’s commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. The 10 Commandments were religious laws given to God’s people and those who chose and still choose to follow God.
    Are Blue Laws necessary and should they be on the books for any reason other than religious ones? If this country was a theocracy and we adhered to a strict interpretation of the Bible as our governing guideline, then no business would be conducted on Sunday or whatever day of rest designated.
    My beliefs are rooted in the Christian faith and believe in the commandments. I am not perfect by any means and would be lying if I said otherwise. And, I don’t try to force my beliefs on others or demand they follow God’s laws or commandments. My strongest belief is that God gave us free will and the freedom to choose. What we do with our freedom is up to each of us.
    If you own a business and decide to open it on Sunday, the choice is yours. If I don’t want to patronize your store on Sunday, the choice is mine. If my religious beliefs dictate that Sunday is my day of rest and my employer does not honor it, then I have a choice to make.

  10. Brad Warthen

    Doug, don’t fret. Our politicians are not spending time discussing this. The Distilled Spirits folks WANT them to, though. If they hadn’t sent me this release I wouldn’t even have mentioned it.
    None of you understand my point, which is that no one can have a day off unless we all have a day off. I realize y’all don’t think the world works that way, but it does. We don’t have nearly the freedom of choice that far too many people think we do. We are too interdependent. This is sort of like (although not quite the same) as the debate we sometimes have over sex and violence on television. The people who don’t understand how the world works say parents can shield their kids from that stuff, and people who don’t want to see or hear it can avoid it. Horse manure. The world doesn’t work that way. Not even the home-schoolers who try to raise their kids in a bubble can fully accomplish that. If the world worked the way the “choice” theorists believe it does, I wouldn’t be aware of the garbage called “reality TV,” because I certainly avoid it like the plague. But it seeps into my consciousness anyway — here, there, everywhere. It’s ubiquitous. So are sex and violence. So is perpetual commerce.
    Not that I’m running down commerce. We’re all suffering economically because there’s not enough of it. But that’s not because of blue laws; it’s because people aren’t buying and spending and lending and borrowing enough, period. If we could add an 8th day to the week and have everything (liquor stores included) open 24 hours on that 8th day, it wouldn’t solve our problem, as long as people kept sitting on their wallets.

  11. bud

    None of you understand my point, which is that no one can have a day off unless we all have a day off.
    Brad, that makes no sense at all. If you don’t want to buy a bottle of Jim Beam on Sunday there is absolutlely no reason you have to even if the store is open. But by mandating that the store be closed I can’t buy Jim Beam on Sunday. So my freedom to buy is taken away WITH a Blue Law but your freedom NOT to buy still exists if we allow liquor stores to be open. Why does it need to be more complicated than that?
    I said I wouldn’t respond to this topic because it seems so obvious. Yet here I go. Just can’t help myself.

  12. Rich

    When you invoke your religious mythology as a rationale for anything in the public square, you merely assert belief without evidence. Not only is that a bad basis for public policy, it simply invites criticism and ridicule from those of us who consider ourselves to be rationalists–i.e., people who demand reason and/or empirical evidence for everything.
    It’s just a really good idea to keep religion out of every public policy discussion. You’re always going to have people like me who, while not offended by your beliefs, are nevertheless wondering what the hell your mythology has to do with anything!!
    If you want to keep from inflaming passions, keep your religion to yourself!!

  13. Doug Ross

    Some politicians DID sit around debating when alcohol could be sold. The blue laws aren’t like gravity.
    And if a store decided to ignore the law and sell liquor on Sunday, wouldn’t our tax dollars be used to enforce the law? to prosecute the “offender”? to keep an every vigilant eye on the community to ensure that not a single drop of vodka crosses the doorstep of a non-restaurant establishment between the hours of midnight Saturday and Monday a.m.?

  14. Bart

    Rich, are you so blinded by an obvious hatred of Christianity that you cannot comprehend what I wrote? What part of my comments did you not understand?
    I gave credence to the freedom of choice we each have. Not once did I imply that you or anyone else should be expected to adhere to my beliefs.
    You in your ideological narrow mindedness refuse to accept the fact that I and most other Christians do not want to impose our beliefs and values on you or anyone else. It is there for the taking if you want. If not, it is your choice, not mine.
    If any passions were inflamed by my comments, they were yours.
    Like it or not, religion will always be an integral part of any discussion on public policy, laws, and ethics. Religion is ingrained in all aspects of our lives and to deny that is to be narrow minded.
    Empirical evidence is great when everything is based on nothing but total scientific belief. Faith is a quantity that cannot be measured by scientific means or quantifiable research. It is something within the human psyche that defies the laws of science and depends on the human spirit for its existence.
    Look inside yourself. You have faith in an unproven quantity, Barack Obama. A faith based on what he said and promised. He had no proven track record of accomplishments to support any of his promises. He had no legislation passed that he on his own authored, sponsored, and successfully enacted. He wrote no history changing research paper, no concrete solid accomplishments of record, nothing. Yet, you place uncompromised faith in the unknown and unproven based on his words and personal appeal. Your own religion, worship of a man, the worst form of worship known to humanity.
    Hypocrisy comes in all forms. Be careful, yours is in full bloom for all to see.

  15. Bart

    If you are not too blinded to understand the driving force behind Blue Laws, they were enacted to impose Biblical law on the people of this country. My post was to clarify my position that even though I am a non-perfect Christian and so are many others on this blog, I don’t agree with denial of your freedom of choice. That is a gift based on my “mythological” religious beliefs given to each of us by a “non-existent” God or so say you.
    I don’t attack your athiesm, why do you continually attack my beliefs?

  16. Brad Warthen

    By the way, let me say it again: If taking off Sundays is somehow some kind of big imposition on your agnosticism or whatever, pick another day. Make it Tuesday, if you want. Or Thursday (“Thor’s Day” — the Norse will be thrilled). Whatever. Let’s just take a day off, a day of actual peace and quiet when you CAN’T get anything done because everything is closed.

    I start to relax a bit just thinking about it, in spite of the prednisone

  17. h

    Brad, so if I do choose my day of rest on Thursday, should I expect, or even DEMAND, that ABC stores be closed on that day? Just for me? Huh?
    Lame argument, dude. Insert 2 quarters and try again.

  18. Rich

    I realize that you pity me for not accepting a theology on faith. Somehow, I just don’t get it, am “blinded” by hatred of religion, and just fail to understand that religious obscurantism such as yours is unavoidably something I must deal with even when I would rather not.
    Actually, I do not hate religion. I view it as a reliquary, a museum of beliefs, attitudes, values, art, literature, and culture. We teach mythology in the schools, and it’s about time we treated the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish myths the same way we lovingly study the other great mythological traditions that arise from antiquity.
    But if you were to propose public policy on the basis of your faith in Allah and the Koran, preferring Sharia Law to the Blue Laws, what philosophically would be the difference??
    Islam has the same basis in faith and revelation as does Christianity. There is absolutely no difference. Both belief systems are confected and contrived by human beings and are no more valid than would be a belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
    Do us all a favor and study some science and philosophy. Stop thinking (and this is an important point that Randy E who has since transported himself and his family to Connecticut has from time to time observed) that the majority of people in this country think like conservative right-wing evangelical Christians. They do not!
    I lived in both California and Massachusetts during my lifetime (military family)and in my time outside of our beloved South (which I would never leave, by the way), I discovered entire populations who think that fundamentalist religion and conservative politics are two species of b*llshit.
    The fact that someone can lead off a political post as you did in a major newspaper (well, at least a semi-major newspaper like the State in an obscure backwater like S.C.) with a believing reference to a literal seven-day creation shows the incredible level of ignorance our local political discourse is willing to tolerate.
    Once again, you have irrational beliefs without evidence and your public policy positions based on your religious nonsense is no more valid than would be the imposition of Sharia Law just because a given population is Muslim!!
    We need a SECULAR politics in a SECULAR state. Once again, keep your religious b.s. to yourself or I will gladly shoot you down rhetorically every time!
    And your imaginary Sky Daddy will do nothing about it simply because there is no evidence whatsoever that he exists!!

  19. Birch Barlow

    Rich, what’s gotten into you? Bart’s statements above specifically said despite his beliefs, it is up for a business to decide when it should open. He is doing the opposite of what you seem to be accusing him of doing. So why would you feel the need to use that as a springboard to crap on his beliefs? Your posts on this topic so often are filled with condescending and hostile remarks that they rarely add anything to a reasonable discourse among adults.
    Besides, if you want to attack someone for injecting religion into decisions on public policy, why don’t you attack this guy instead of an ordinary citizen with only one vote.
    And I say this as someone whose beliefs are probably closer to your own than to Bart’s.

  20. Rich

    I am sick and tired of religious people in our country claiming a special privilege for their supernatural superstitions. I don’t bow my head to pray and I don’t want to hear their invocations, sermons, and religious nonsense. They need to keep their religion to themselves.
    We live in a world drowning in religious fanaticism and intolerance. It’s time we recognized that religion is indeed a serious problem in our society since it encourages fanaticism, stupidity, and belief without evidence.
    Birch, religion does not get a pass with me any more than does Republican ideology. If you don’t want it to be criticized, then don’t put it out there!!
    I know that sounds harsh, but I am so sick and tired of the religious bullying we have had to endure from America’s religious conservatives in the last generation. It’s time to fight back.
    As Voltaire once said, “écrasez l’infâme!”

  21. Herb Brasher

    And so, Rich fights back, with intolerant, anti-religious bullying, seeking to deny 1st amendment rights to anyone who does not share his anti-religion religion.

  22. Rich

    No, Herb, I am not seeking to deny anyone their first-amendment right to freedom of religion! What I am saying is that if you put your religion out there as the basis for your views, you had better expect it to be criticized–and vociferously, especially by those of us who think it’s nothing more than superstition.
    Don’t talk about what “God wants” unless you are prepared to hear those of us who disagree with you respond. I am NOT saying that you can’t say this, merely that your views merit NO SPECIAL TREATMENT just because they are RELIGIOUS.
    I make it a point not to criticize people’s religious views unless they use them as a basis for their political thinking or engage in any form of public preachment.
    Best to keep religion OUT of public policy discussion, except in the most perfunctory ways–just as the founders (most of whom were deists or outright non-believers) intended.

  23. Herb Brasher

    Rich, by denying religious people the right to bring their religious views into the public square and to participate in policy discussion, you have denied first amendment rights. We must discuss public policy based on who we are, just as you have the right to influence public policy based on who you are.
    But let us drop this myth of the “secular non-religion” by the wayside. Each of us has a basic philosophy of life upon which our views are based. It is the contribution of the whole that constitutes public discourse.
    You can feel quite free to criticize both my views and the philosophy upon which they are based. I, in turn, will feel quite free to do the same with yours. That we can discuss these together and reach a compromise for the common good is what democracy in this country is all about.

  24. Rich

    There is no “myth of the secular non-religion” except in the minds of the very religious among us who cannot conceive of anyone living without some sort of faith that would be based on non-rational principles.
    There is a profound difference between a rationalist/empiricist view of the world and a religious view based upon faith without evidence, and frequently without reason. In your view, everything is in some way religious.
    In my view–and in the view of most of the Founders who were ardent students of European Enlightenment thought–there is a profound difference between religious and empirical propositions. Religious propositions do not require evidence; they are “revealed.” As such, we have a multiplicity of contending revelations, even within what is ostensibly the same religion. Catholics, protestants, Mormons all claim that their faith is revealed by God, yet they disagree profoundly on so many questions.
    Science and scholarship, however, make no pretense of knowing the meaning of the universe, nor do they proclaim a way to follow in order to assure peace of mind and life after death. The imperfect understandings derived from rational thought are always tentative and subject to revision as new evidence comes in.
    While the theory of evolution is considered in science to be an established fact (as is the theory of gravitation), as new evidence comes in the theory is refined, the picture becomes clearer. As with any good theory, evolution explains empirical data and predicts future discoveries, which are then integrated into the theory.
    This is very different from a religious doctrine. Religious doctrines are accessed through divine revelation and are not subject to revision according to empirical evidence derived by experiment, research, and observation.
    Since the process by which we have come to know what humans consider to be the divine revelation of religious doctrines has resulted in so many contradictory revelations–many of which are starkly contradicted by science, humanity, and simple reason, the Founders wisely chose to separate church and state. God is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution and religious tests for office are specifically prohibited (Art. 6, Sec. 3).
    This is why I say to you and to everyone else who holds deeply religious views that it is best to keep your religion out of public policy debates, unless there is already widespread agreement on such propositions as that we should all “love one another” as Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded Americans during the struggle for civil rights. He wisely induced cognitive dissonance in the white Christian majority such that they would come to see that segregation was not only unconstitutional, it was also unchristian.
    Otherwise, we are all better off if religion stays out of public policy debates since we have no way of verifying anyone’s revelations, whereas science and scholarship can provide us real, verifiable research upon which to make decisions.

  25. Birch Barlow

    Rich, what’s your take on Pelosi taking a taxpayer-funded trip to the Vatican to meet with her religious leader? What’s you take on this, which I already referenced above?
    If you’re going to constantly berate the Republican Party’s ties to religion, then you should do the same to Democrats. Maybe it’s time for you to support a different party altogether.

  26. Herb Brasher

    Rich, we keep repeating ourselves, so we’ll have to agree to disagree, but I won’t stop countering certain statements that you make, so that at least somebody reading this might be encouraged to think for themselves. Your statements have a number of false presuppositions, including:
    1) Because there are contradictory religious positions and philosophies, none are therefore verifiable, and all must be false. This is the same as saying that if two mathematicians disagree on a formula, both are false. Now it is true that religious phenomena cannot necessarily be analyzed on the same basis as scientific theory, but if they are based on claimed historical events, then they must be evaluated as historical events. Historical events are analyzed differently than repeatable scientific theories.
    2) Trying to analyze by scientific means is, by any definition inside the realm of time and space. A Creator, if He exists, is by definition outside of the realm of time and space, otherwise He cannot be a Creator. Looking for him there is like Yuri Gagarin saying “I didn’t see God when I was out orbiting the earth.” That this is so does not diminish at all the possibility of a Creator–it only widens the playing field. As long as you are only content to play in your little sand box, then I don’t suppose anybody can help you. But criticizing those who choose to look around outside of the box, and who will, of necessity bring their philosophical basis into the issues of public life, is narrow and arbitrary.

    Science and scholarship, however, make no pretense of knowing the meaning of the universe, nor do they proclaim a way to follow in order to assure peace of mind and life after death. The imperfect understandings derived from rational thought are always tentative and subject to revision as new evidence comes in.
    While the theory of evolution is considered in science to be an established fact (as is the theory of gravitation), as new evidence comes in the theory is refined, the picture becomes clearer. As with any good theory, evolution explains empirical data and predicts future discoveries, which are then integrated into the theory.

    The above is an admission that you have nothing but your sand box, and are continuing to discover theories that explain what is going on in your sandbox. By your own admission you have no way of knowing if there is meaning to the universe, to human existence, or if there is anything outside of your sandbox that might explain who put the sandbox there, why he put it there, and if there are any ground rules for playing in the sandbox. That is a pretty significant state of affairs.
    4) Wanting to get rid of anyone bringing in any outside influence into your sandbox, you then choose to contradict yourself by admitting Martin Luther King into the mixture. You have to, because his contribution to public life in our democracy is inescapable. Once you have done so, however, you have opened Pandora’s box, because there are numerous other significant contributors to our democratic way of life whose motivation came from outside the sandbox. Indeed, you really have no definition of what you call “love” unless it comes from outside the sandbox, just as you have no basis for calling anything “unchristian” — you relinquished that right by denying validity to divine revelation. So you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
    Unlike yourself, Barack Obama has wisely seen that he cannot take religion outside of the public square, so he continues to allow what has been the characteristic of our democracy from the beginning, which is not to stifle religious thought and influence. All of us, will, of necessity bring our religious identity with us to our discussions. Who we are, where we are going, to whom we are accountable, these are profound questions which make a huge difference in how we view the world and those around us.
    Finally, I think you greatly overstate the case of the religious persuasion of the Founding Fathers. The real truth lies somewhere in the middle between those like yourself who would present them as mostly total unbelievers with a few Deists mixed in, and others who have tried to make them mostly Christian. Certainly they were influenced by Enlightenment thought, but to minimize the religious influence on their thought and works is revisionist history.
    There are other things that one could take issue with, for example the claim that our constitutional documents are devoid of religious influence, but I’ve already gone on too long.

  27. Rich

    If there is no way to verify empirically the existence of a creator because “he” exists outside of space and time, then what are YOU talking about except a pie-in-the-sky myth??
    At least my propositions are subject to empirical verification and modification.
    Time for the South to get off the religious high horse, look squarely at our awful history, and rejoin the Union.

  28. Workin' Tommy C

    Blue laws are all about local rule and consent of the governed. If states/localities want to change them–fine, whatever.
    I see them not as “archaic” but as one of the few categories of law where Christian (or whatever other) principles of the people of a county or town are still allowed to hold sway.
    Personally, I think blue laws as more symbolism over substance in the grand tradition of making a political show over a really meaningless gesture that does nothing to encourage personal, individual responsibility.
    Disagreeing as I do due to the intellectual and spiritual vacuity of those laws, I still will fight for the right of localities to determine their own laws in such matters as well as in many other, much more important matters.
    To overrule local governments in order to get rid of such laws in the state or the country would be “big mother” tyranny in the name of universal order by those with excessively rigid mindsets.
    The economy is there to serve us, not the other way around. Screw “what’s best” for business! Let’s let the people of communities, cities, and counties determine, rightly or wrongly, for themselves what they want.
    The concepts involved here are “consent of the governed” and “local self-rule.” If nothing else, this is a good lesson to those citizens who are increasingly antithetical to the fundamental principles of a true republic.

  29. Rich

    Workin’ Tommy C:
    The Founders got one thing truly wrong: oppression comes not from the central government, but from the governmental levels that are closet to the people.
    In their experience, Parliament and King George were denying the colonists their rights, so they devised a government based in part on the idea that federalism would reduce the opportunity for an overmighty central government to lord it over the people.
    But American history has turned out very differently. It has been the states and the local governments that have been in the forefront of denying people their rights and stifling dissent. Even today, if you live in a small community, it’s hard to go against the grain. That’s just human nature.
    The blue laws should not be a local option if they are ever found by the courts to be an imposition of religion by the majority over the minority. Although I would never want to do away with American federalism, I cannot support majoritarian democracy in ever case.
    We have always balanced the rights of the minorities in our midst with the rights of the majority to self-government. In our day and age, the majority would not be able to impose a state church on the people just because the majority willed it.
    There are rights that the people have that no majority can trample upon.

  30. Herb Brasher

    Rich, you simply will not get the point, will you? Religion has impact upon our space and time if it can be verified that a Creator has historically intervened in our history. There are criteria for evaluating any religious claim. That is why your statement that religious claims are all bunk because one contradicts the other is bunk itself. There is no reliable historical evidence for the Book of Mormon, for example. It is bunk, a story based on a novel written in the early 19th century by Solomon Spaulding. On the other hand, there is plenty for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. You can dismiss such “seeking after truth” out of hand if you want. Stay in your sandbox, that is your privilege. But don’t be surprised if some of the rest of us look further. We may be crazy, as you suggest. The other possibility is that you are spiritually, and willfully, blind.
    The irony is that, the more folks like you try and push through your anti-religion religion, the more spiritually seeking the majority of people become. You won’t win this one, Rich. The reason is that it goes back to who we are as humanity.
    But regardless of the above, the fact is that religious people, regardless of their persuasion, are going to be weighing in on public policy, and seeking to mold it according to their convictions. The Bill of Rights guarantees religious liberty, and also our right to free speech into the process of government. It also guarantees your anti-religion religion the same rights.
    I know what your real agenda is, of course. Among other issues, this whole thing is an attempt to disenfranchise those who do not share the gay agenda as you and Cap and others do. Once you have cut us out of public policy, you are free to continue to dismantle the nuclear family as you wish. Those of us who are convinced that this is a fundamental issue to our way of life will continue to struggle to make our voice heard and our influence felt, whether in issues like proposition 8, or others. Hopefully we will learn to do so with grace and compassion as those who struggle with various kinds of orientation ourselves, but are convinced that we do not necessarily need to live out our natural orientations. But we will not be gagged, I’m sorry to tell you.

  31. Rich

    You have the perfect right to say the most awful things about people, such as gays, whom you consider to be sinners worthy of state persecution.
    Fortunately, you and your party are going to be marginalized permanently as fairer voter registration and a more accurate census take place over the next four years.

  32. Birch Barlow

    It’s hard to be sympathetic to your views when you say stuff like:
    this whole thing is an attempt to disenfranchise those who do not share the gay agenda as you and Cap and others do
    Once you have cut us out of public policy, you are free to continue to dismantle the nuclear family as you wish

    Exactly how does this take away ANY of YOUR rights? If anything, you have it backwards. You make it sound like if the “gay agenda” is put forth, then marriage will become strictly between a man and a man.
    As far as the “nuclear family” goes, your rights and responsibilities only extend to your own family. Why don’t you not worry about what family structures others choose.
    Besides, everyone knows homosexuality is not the #1 threat to the “nuclear family.” So why is homosexuality the big target for the Christian-right? Hell, the biggest threat occurs in what, a third of Christian marriages and even started a whole denomination… so let’s just ignore it and crusade against gays. Brilliant!

  33. Birch Barlow

    I’m still waiting for you to comment on the Obama’s and Pelosi’s insertions of their beliefs into our government and politics on the taxpayers’ dime.

  34. Bart

    It is not I who is trying to silence opposing voices, it is you. I do not pity you at all. So far, I see nothing in your comments that are deserving of pity. How can I pity anyone who takes genuine pleasure in denigrating and dishonoring the God I believe in? Even with that, I feel no anger toward you.
    I will continue to express my views on the importance of religion and faith in our lives but never will I try to force my beliefs upon you. You have free will, a gift bestowed upon each of us by God or however you believe it come to be.
    I will not engage you by arguing against your absolute convictions because it does no good and conversely, you cannot change my mind or diminish by beliefs. I will contend that as long as there are human beings living on this planet, there will be a belief in God or a supreme being and this entity will almost always enter into any decision made or action taken by human beings whether in political or personal lives.
    The need to believe in something or someone greater than ourselves, the human animal will continue to seek an answer to the question, “Who am I and where did I come from?”
    My educational and professional background is steeped in math, science, the arts, and philosophy. But, thanks for the suggestion about philosophy and science anyway.
    As Herb has so eloquently expressed himself, we are here, we are not going away, and we will not be silenced. Long after you and I are nothing more than the sum of the dust we come from, there will continue to be legions of believers who will kneel in prayer at the end of the day and give thanks to our God. In the meantime, no one is forcing you to listen to, read about, bow your head, or engage in our religious beliefs. You are free to do so and are welcome but you will never be forced to participate.
    We will continue to voice our opinions in the conviction that if you and those supporting your views are allowed to silence us, it can lead to the insanity that gripped Germany under Hitler’s Nazi regime. Read the poem by Pastor Niemoller, who was a Hitler supporter until he realized what was happening and how intolerance and bigotry was spreading, resulting in the wholesale genocide of millions and millions.
    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.
    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.
    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a trade unionist.
    When they came for the Jews,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a Jew.
    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out.
    Of all the people on this blog, your attitude and vocabulary you use to express your feelings are the best examples of the concerns and lamentations expressed in the words of Pastor Niemoller’s poem .
    If not for honest Christians who joined in to disavow racial bigotry and displayed genuine compassion for gays to help stop the violence against them, we could have delved into the same madness.
    The difference is that I along with most others on this blog will not remain silent or allow you to silence us but defend your right to your opinions, beliefs, and freedom to practice them as you wish and be there to stop them from coming for you. Sadly, based on your comments, I do not believe you would ever do the same for Herb, me, or any person of conviction.
    Of all the people on this blog, you disturb me the most. It disturbs me that you are allowed to stand in front of a classroom of our children, disguised as an educator, exposing them to your religious bigotry. Do the children of faith in your classroom understand the contempt you have for their beliefs therefore contempt for them? Do the parents understand? I doubt it.
    After your last comment to Herb who not once attacked gays or advocated state persecution according to your accusations, I genuinely sense a deep anger in you and it blinds you to any objectivity and closes the door to a reasonable discussion or discourse on any subject with you unless it is in lockstep with your convictions or beliefs.
    Ultimately, the only person who marginalizes you is you.

  35. Herb Brasher

    Thanks Bart. And Birch, you don’t need to be sympathetic to my views; I’m not asking for sympathy. What I am asking for, and what Rich seeks to deny me, is my right to speak as a religious person into the public square, and to influence public policy. As Bart points out, Rich does not really engage any argument–he does not seem to be capable of doing so, from what I can tell. Instead, he simply ridicules religious belief as superstition and does not hesitate to pour out insult after insult upon religious people. That is not fair argumentation or debate or discussion. It is simply dismissal, and an easy way out.
    I did not write, or at least I had no intention of writing, hateful words about gay people. I do believe that homosexual practices (not the orientation itself) are a sin, yes. Not surprisingly, if they are a sin against God, they are also a detriment to our society, even for people who do not believe in God. Adultery is a sin as well, if that is what you are referring to. It is also not good for our society. Polygamy and polygyny may not necessarily be a “sin” as such, but they are still ultimately unhealthy for our society. I view gay marriage in the same light–it is not going to ultimately supply the need for sound father-child relationships, and is therefore a detriment to the family, the very building block of our society. Protestations about “loving relationships” (nobody ever defines what “loving” means–presumably it means to feel oh so ooey-gooey aabout someone else, or something close to that) don’t cut it.
    My experience is that if I express the above openly, I am branded as a bigot and using nasty words about gays, even though I have not attacked, or seek to attack, their orientation. I struggle with orientations of my own (this is not one of them though)–why would I want to be nasty to others who struggle with theirs? But if I lived closer, I would join in with a Chinese church (which which I already have connections) out in the Bay area which supported prop. 8, yes. There is no hate involved in that, at least there shouldn’t be. Rich has expressed in the past his disdain for evangelicals precisely on this issue. Cap is adamant that the world would be so much better off if the Puritan influence of the past could once and for all be totally eradicated. He evidently does not stop to think that these people may have had such a profound influence on our way of life that they might have contributed to our rather unique experience, rather than have been a detriment to it.
    I will admit that I probably should not have brought up the issue of gay marriage–nobody seems to be capable of a sane, helpful discussion of the issues. Just mention the subject, and all sanity is out the window. The only bit I have seen of a sane discussion on the topic was a brief one a couple of years ago on Bob McAlister’s now defunct blog. Other than that, the general trend continues.
    And Rich is a teacher. I am well aware of the normal agenda here–tell our kids that there are many forms of marriage that are legitimate–whatever works for you (Robin Williams expressed it so eloquently at the end of Mrs. Doubtfire) is fine. I don’t think so–as I’ve already said.
    By the way, Rich, I am not a Republican. If anything, I am a pro-life (pro-cholce, too: for the rights of infants to be able to one day choose) Democrat, though I tend to be an independent voter. I may be to the right on one issue, and very much to the left on some others. I am very uncomfortable with many of the Christian right’s positions, or at least with the way they often express them. I’ve even learned from some others on this blog that perhaps, just perhaps, some so-called “pro-choice” legislation may result in fewer abortions. I certainly hope so, though I have great doubts about it. But–I think I am willing to learn. I learn nothing, though, from those who ridicule my position, and proceed to dismiss it as beneath their dignity to address.

  36. Birch Barlow

    No, no, no Herb. I am not saying you are hateful or a bigot. That was not my point at all. I don’t even know you, how can I call you one of those things. Hell, if you or I or anyone else wants to be a bigot, that’s our right anyway. I don’t care.
    And you’re right, you don’t need my sympathy. So let me rephrase: When you say this is an attempt to “disenfranchise” you, you sound like a damned fool. What rights of yours are being taken away? Please answer this question.
    The only rights in question here are those of homosexuals. What good does it do for Christians to seek to block them? How does that further Christianity?
    If you believe that homosexuality is wrong based on your beliefs, that’s fine too. Of course, I don’t see why any Christian would think God’s law needs some buttressing from the laws of man. But that’s not what this is about.
    It isn’t about bigotry or belief, it’s about rights.

  37. Herb Brasher

    Birch, my main point is that Rich wants all religious people out of the public square. At least, if they come, they have to leave their religious views behind, and influence public policy based on total neutrality of some point. That is impossible for any religious person of conviction to do, and I think you see that, and you have addressed it as well. We will continue to weigh into the discussion, hopefully with civility and grace, and attempt to achieve some sort of compromise that we can live with. (Of course there are those who refuse to compromise, but they are on both sides–the whole partisan discussion that we’ve been talking about in various aspects.)
    However, it became evident to me that both Rich and Cap are very disturbed that the majority of evangelical Christians should seek to somehow limit marriage to one man + one woman, and to employ legal means to do that. I suspect that this is a major issue for them, probably one of many, that has called for removing evangelical Christians totally from the public square.
    It is always a ticklish issue–this attempt to legislate righteousness. It certainly didn’t work with Prohibition–but the question arises as to whether that was a legitimate thing to legislate at all.
    However, it seems to me that the question of what is a family is fundamental to our society. What happens when children grow up in families where we are beginning to practice the assumption that fatherhood is irrelevant, and anything goes? I fear a further deterioration of society. Saying that most of our families are single-parent anyway, or many fathers are abusive, is only a smoke screen. It is like saying that we don’t need to cure pneumonia if the same patient also has TB. Maybe we need to work on both?
    I also do not buy the concept of a neutral morality. While there are many very cordial and gracious gay people, there is a tendency for them to be very angry and very aggressive. (Not that our side doesn’t fall into the same trap, I freely admit.) They intend to make it known, no matter what it takes, than any form of the family is OK. It seems, from what Rich has written, that he intends to tell his school classes the same. I wonder if they are allowed to hear an opposite viewpoint at all? It would be interesting to know.
    And this is not, I fear, the last step. Other, more bizarre forms will probably follow. Perhaps I am too fearful myself, but Kudzu’s comical portrayal of the man who wants to marry himself is perhaps prophetic. What if I want to marry my dog, why should that not be possible? We could have a loving relationship, and raise kids. Once Pandora’s box is open, it is hard to close.
    Is there room for compromise on this issue of gay marriage? Yes, there surely must be, but in the meantime, I don’t think I can sit idly by and just say it doesn’t matter, especially since I don’t believe that gay orientation is just a matter of genes alone. It may be that I have to push hard from the other extreme in order to move anything at all. Please forgive my tone if that comes across as an attempt to be domineering.
    I have found a sociological study by Stanford Lyman, The Seven Deadly Sins to be very instructive. Lyman is a professor of sociology, and as far as I know, not a believer. He has no answers, but he does detail the reasons that government, including clan and family law, have attempted to regulate lust and its various expressions, for the good of the whole of society. None of the attempted systems are perfect or even necessarily successful, but no regulation is apparently even worse, and that is where we seem to be headed.

  38. Herb Brasher

    Birch, the above comments from me were written far too hastily between work projects. I am sorry for the somewhat hefty “tone” they exhibit, and I was not insinuating that you had called me a bigot. I was trying to speak more generally than that. Generally I have found that the gay agenda people were very aggressive, but then that is entirely anecdotal evidence. Having a discussion on these issues on this blog has always been very difficult, and that goes for both sides.
    I do think that the move toward government sanctioning gay marriage is problematic in the long run, and I hope I have indicated why in the paragraphs above. In general we need to all work toward workable compromises, but this is an issue that doesn’t lend itself very well to compromise.
    I tend to react to quickly to Rich’s disparaging remarks about religion (he calls it criticism, but I’m not convinced it is–more of a put-down than any kind of criticism, especially since he often does not really engage the issues).

  39. Rich

    I don’t engage the issues?? If that’s the case then you wouldn’t be reacting so negatively.
    You’re quite willing to base public policy, not on secular reasoning backed up by empirical evidence either in law or in social science, but rather by your own absurd superstitions.
    If you don’t want to hear me disparage your religion, don’t bring it to the table when discussing an issue such as homosexual marriage and then saying that such-and-such is your religious belief as a foundation for it. When you use religion as a basis for using state power to compel human beings to behave or not behave in certain ways, then you are truly imposing your religion on people who may not agree with you–people who might have another religion that they would want to impose upon you if they had it in their power to do so.
    That’s why the Founders were wise to create a secular representative democratic republic in which church and state would be separate. That means that you and your mullahs will be unable to impose Sharia Law on the rest of us.

  40. Herb Brasher

    Rich, repeating the same, old, tired cliches over and over is not engaging the issues. That I find your anti-religion religion lacking should come as a surprise to no one. At your own admission, you have no data concerning the why or purpose of human existence–and you are content to leave it at that, which speaks volumes about your world view.
    Furthermore, referring to other people’s world views as superstitious nonsense, or worse, is not criticism, it is put-down, unless your criticism grapples with the issues. I do not, for example, take the issue of the Book of Mormon lightly. Religious and historical claims invite investigation, and I have done some of that, and come to some conclusions. Possibly you have as well, but it is hard to see. All we get are the same old cliches, and that is that all religions are nonsense. I guess that makes it pretty easy, though. One doesn’t have to investigate anything outside of the sandbox, if one has already concluded that sand is all there can and ever more will be. Pretty simple, eh?
    I did not really bring religious arguments to bear in my discussion of gay issues above. What I did do was to mention Stanford Lyman and hint at some sociological issues. This you didn’t engage either, but then most people don’t. The question of where this is all ultimately headed, and what the implications are for future generations–well, I suppose evolution will somehow take care of it. Not to worry. But I still worry. Sorry.
    The one issue you did engage was to find some room for M. L. King. That you had to do, but there are a host of others who have contributed significantly to our republic out of their religious convictions. If you include King, you must include the others as well.
    I keep saying that our republic has been very positively shaped and informed by religious views, the dominant one being Christianity. Some of this shaping was bad, but to assume from that, that it is all bad, well, that is simply arbitrary. Your conclusions here are based, not on evidence, but on pre-suppositions. Historical evidence tells a different story .
    Well, enough is enough. I want to hear Obama’s speech. It is always interesting for me to hear what he has to say, but also to listen his presuppositions, religious and otherwise, that are very much present. I’m very glad that we have a pro-religious person in the Presidency, rather than an anti-religion religious person.

  41. Birch Barlow

    Herb, you need to take a lot of what Rich says with a grain of salt. He’ll write passionately against some things, but when Obama and his Democrats are guilty of those criticisms, Rich turns a blind eye.
    This is not to say that it is atypical for followers of the Republican and Democratic parties to tend to overlook the flaws of their elected heroes. That is certainly not the case. Rich is just a good example of doing so.

  42. Workin' Tommy C

    If the Founders got anything wrong–please advocating changing the U.S. Constitution in the proper way: amend it!
    The problem with the central government is that it is far removed from the states and, especially since the 17th Amendment, very hard to make change there initiated by the states or the people.
    The huge advantage enjoyed by the citizenry of a state is that, when organized and active, they CAN AND DO make a difference. On the other hand, we’d probably have to have a French Revolution to make a difference in D.C. now.
    The levels of government closest to the people are, generally speaking, those most easily changed by an active electorate with leaders willing to take up a cause. I like to bring up the excellent example of the SC Grassroots Gun Rights organization which was formed to give people the right to defend themselves when in public. Mission pretty much accomplished but they still remain vigilant.
    The rights-robbing Supreme Court has come in riding a white horse in many circumstances to step between citizens and their states. There are VERY few situations where they’re authorized by the U.S. Constitution, as amended, to do that. Almost every time they have, they’ve robbed states of important checks on central tyranny.
    What you perceive as local “tyranny” is inevitable to some small degree, as you point out. Different levels of control appeal to different mindsets. It takes a really open mind to understand that, for example in the case of abortion (which should legally be solely up to the individual states to decide upon) the central government’s stepping in and forcing the states to legalize abortion is as abhorrent to a lot of folks as would be legalizing infanticide.
    Should folks in a state who are against abortion not be able to decide for themselves on the matter? Lack of such self-determination from a central government is tyranny with very few resolutions available. And the same power to enforce legalization of abortion can be used to absolutely forbid it in all the states.
    According to the Constitution, we should have a choice of 50 different takes on abortion and a host of other laws, lifestyles, and social issues with which to vote for and against WITH OUR FEET.
    When the central government takes away choice, it’s akin to their practicing censorship (also not a power of the FEDERAL government) arbitrarily deciding what sort of speech is correct whereas the states have the power to censor obscenity if they want.
    As for your rant against religion in our culture, according to our supreme law, we the people in the states (NOT at the Federal level) have the power to establish a state religion. Shocking but true.
    I doubt any state would actually pass a law dictating a state religion–Thomas Jefferson was plainly relieved when VA did not but in the same breath acknowledged the rights of states to do so. Two or three states had state religions when admitted into the Union. However, in today’s world of radical religious extremists, it would be handy for some states to be able to outlaw witchcraft and other sociopathic perversions passing themselves off as religion.
    Sound radical to you? You bet it is! Our Founding Fathers were radicals of the first order. But again, if you want to change it, start advocating for an amendment to the Constitution.
    For every sin in your opinion in the present or past that state and local governments have committed, I can point out states where such was not the case and the with a couple of exceptions, if the Federalis interfered, it was to the detriment of the freedoms enjoyed in other states.
    If states’ rights were respected as they should be according to the supreme law of the land, there’d be no “war on drugs” and medical marijuana and such would be allowed in some states while still forbidden in others. In my humble opinion, only an excessively rigid mindset would have a problem with this sort of solution to controversial issues.
    Are you REALLY against the people of the states not being able to rule themselves except where certain powers have been delegated to the central government?
    Consent of the governed and self-rule include the unknown and potential for a wee bit of anarchy or, on the other hand, excessive regulations (as long as a republican form of government is maintained). I’d rather have a choice of which extremes to suffer in a world heading quickly towards universal fascism.

  43. Rich

    The doctrine of incorporation makes hash of your idea that states have the right to establish a church. They used to, and most states had state churches until 1823.
    The doctrine of incorporation, as determined over the last 150 years, has slowly but steadily incorporated state consitutions into the body of federal jurisprudence. This means that no state constitution may contradict the federal constitution nor may a state deny a citizen a right that is guaranteed at the federal level.
    Furthermore, the Union is now perpetual. The Civil War made that quite clear. Even if a state were unanimously to vote for secession, it would not be permitted to do so, its government would be disbanded, and it would find itself under direct federal military rule.
    This system of federal supremacy, enshrined in the constitution, actually restrains state and local governments from the most egregious depredations against the rights of their minority citizens.

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