The below is an editorial response sent to the Birmingham News the other week. Since I’ll be shocked if they publish even an exerpt, I’m posting it here. Enjoy.
Drunk with Piety
A recent Birmingham News article(http://www.al.com/birminghamnews/stories/index.ssf?/base/news/1235380519290080.xml&coll=2) by Malcomb Daniels left me once again troubled at the archaic way in which my home state likes to operate. Here we are in the year 2009 discussing whether or not liquids produced from fermented crops can be sold to persons of a predetermined age within a particular rotation of our planet as it revolves around the yellow dwarf star to which it sits closest. This stifling of commerce within a society proudly self-described as capitalistic at a time of economic hardship seems a little hard to swallow… especially with no chaser.
The discussion at hand is concerning the use of multiple licenses, something the state regulatory body for the sale of fermented crops (Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board), has regulations against even though they allowed the behavior to exist by not enforcing those aforementioned regulations up until recently. These semantics and those stating that it would require the support of all nine members of the Shelby County legislative delegation for any proposed legislation on a referendum of Sunday alcohol sales to even get introduced are important for procedure and protocol but have zero bearing on what is at the heart of this issue: antiquated laws forced into existence by politicians seeking to gain and retain the support of a loud and organized special interest group with beliefs from a time when the wheel was the iPod of its day.
In his article Daniels quotes one of these politicians, Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo. According to Daniels, Senator Erwin “philosophically opposes Sunday alcohol sales” and that “he has been contacted by pastors who have asked him to do whatever he can to prevent alcohol from being sold on Sundays, and he plans to honor their request.” Erwin then reinforced his commitment to the religious lobbyists by adding that he would do everything he could to make sure Shelby County is a place where you “sell it on six days and keep the Sabbath holy.”
I thank Senator Erwin for directly discussing religious beliefs in terms of legislation. I invite him to peruse at his leisure the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. Of course, there is the possibility that Sen. Erwin prefers to ignore the Supreme Court cases upholding the Constitutional integrity of the separation of church and state and sees this as a matter of state or county specific will-of-the-people legislation unlike the prayer in school issue.
So what exactly is the will of the people? I’m one of those people, as are many, many, many more from which he may not have heard. Are we expected to allow antiquated legislation to be reinforced merely because as a collective we have not yet designated someone to speak on our behalf in exchange for holding you in high esteem in conversations with our peers during your future campaign fundraising season? And if so, what other “blue law” statutes are you preparing to roll back out in tune with your plan of “keeping the Sabbath holy?”
It is my understanding that the idea of observing the Sabbath (across many religions which, by the way, consider it to exist during different sets of hours within the calendar week) was about stopping commerce and work so one may rest as the lord did; or to worship that yellow dwarf star, if we are to go back to the first documented law regarding a day of abstinence from work for a god, as Constantine did on March 7th 321, well before his conversion to Christianity. Regardless, historically the purpose has been to abstain work and commerce. It is the reason Grocery stores used to close on Sunday as well as many laws that still exist in some states requiring car dealerships to do the same. Much of the archaic belief sets ushered into law in this country have been overturned or ignored and with good reason. It is a puerile mind that considers it reasonable to suspend the sale of goods and services to all the people of a county, state, or nation during one rotation of our planet on its axis simply to satisfy the beliefs of the loudest few.
How about if the Jewish population and Muslim population of our state (the latter having 20+ Mosques statewide according to U.S. Census data) had every member of every congregation contact you with their own concerns of “keeping the Sabbath holy?” Asking for legislation to limit the sale of pork products to 6 days a week (excluding Friday and Saturday respectively). Restaurants could still open… just take the ribs off the menu… you know… so the day can be kept “Holy”. And what of those Christians that believe the Sabbath to be Saturday (Seventh Day Adventists come to mind)? Should we now conflate the two days on this regulation?
Restaurants wishing to peddle fermented crop liquid on the first day of the week should really make their own stand in the matter. Any one who has worked in the food and beverage service industry can tell you that the Sunday bar crowd, especially during Football season, is one for which to be thankful. Especially since they usually follow the Sunday afternoon church crowd who after a heavy day of tithing and piety deem it acceptable to tip their servers 10% if at all, as some all to often merely leave exact change and a prayer card. As if this printed piece of scripture can in some way pay that person’s rent or mortgage (for those that do this: the act does not akin you the story of your Lord and Savior and the man from Samaria, it is considered a grave insult and is thereby quite the opposite.)
Prohibition of any kind, whether it be for 1 or all 7 days of a week does not work. Prohibition of sale will not stifle anything other than the revenues and taxes collected by said sale.
To the restaurants I offer a piece of advice, unsolicited and expected to be taken as such: Close. On every Sunday after this ridiculous law is reinforced, close your doors. Let those that do not wish to allow others to drink in your establishment not eat there either. Let them drive north to Jefferson county to eat in restaurants allowed to serve fermented crop liquid. But when eating let them eat-not pork on Friday or Saturday, or purchase a vehicle after their meal, or run by the grocery store for dog food (a law in Virginia) or any number of other goods and services which might in some way be insulting to some deity somewhere at some time. Who knows the Giant Spaghetti Monster might have an issue with us drinking water when it’s raining outside. Maybe we should all just stay home and do nothing .
Yes, I think I rather like that. Lets go all the way, stop all business from being done on Sunday… Including churches. The people can congregate, the preachers can preach… just no collection of money. You know… to “keep the Sabbath Holy.”
In close I’d like to paraphrase the summation of American writer William Faulkner in his broadside “To the Voters of Oxford (Mississippi)” concerning the sale of alcohol around 1950:
“Yours for a freer (Shelby County), where publicans can be law abiding publicans six days a week, and Ministers of God can be Ministers of God all seven days in the week, as the Founder of their Ministry commanded them to when He ordered them to keep out of temporal politics in His own words: ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’”