Blue laws and blue ghosts: Story on Sunday business closings lacks religious voices

I've spent the last few days "Where the West Begins" — in Fort Worth, Texas.

I've eaten some chicken-fried steak, waited for roughly 300 trains to pass — typically at speeds slower than cattle — and enjoyed quality time with my parents, brother and sister, all of whom call Cowtown home.

After Mom grabbed the coupons from Sunday's Fort Worth Star-Telegram, I noticed this banner, front-page headline: "Through with blue laws?"

The subhead in the print edition:

Lawmakers look at easing longtime limits on Sunday sales of cars and liquor

I hate to jump ahead, but anybody think there might be a religion angle on this story?

Let's start at the top:

Texans are nothing if not loyal to the past.

But some are starting to wonder whether all ties to the past need to be honored.

Take Sunday blue laws.

The laws, enacted decades ago to limit what people can do or buy on Sundays, required people to attend church and prevented the sale of items such as knives, nails and washing machines.

Most of the laws were repealed in 1985, but two remain: Vehicles can’t be sold on consecutive weekend days, and package liquor sales are banned on Sundays.

Now lawmakers have revived proposals to eliminate the car sales ban and to eat around the edges of the liquor sales prohibition.

“At one time, some enterprises could not even open one day on weekends, either Saturday or Sunday,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Sundays were usually very quiet with few large stores open.

“Now, Sundays are much like other days,” he said. “It is not surprising that some strong conservatives would introduce laws eliminating blue laws.”

A 1984 story published by The New York Times noted:

Although the Christian belief that Sunday should be a day of rest was the theological basis for the blue laws, many merchants have pressed to keep them on the books on economic grounds. Some say they lose money by paying the extra labor and operating costs to stay open on Sundays.

In a 2003 story for The Associated Press, I pointed out:

More women in the labor force and the softening and repealing of "blue laws" across the nation have made Sunday as much a day of activity and commerce as worship and relaxation.
Historically, Sunday blue laws -- so called because they were written on blue paper -- forbade the sale of items such as cigarettes and alcohol. They also prohibited secular amusements and unnecessary work.
"With an increasingly large fraction of women with regular business-week employment, the effect of that is to essentially eliminate Monday through Friday as viable options for them doing their shopping," said David A. Laband, an Auburn University economist and author of "Blue Laws: The History, Economics and Politics of Sunday-Closing Laws."

So who does the Star-Telegram quote?

Lawmakers? Check.

Car dealers? Check.

Liquor store owners? Check.

Church folks? Huh? I mean, nope.

Granted, this was a political and business story, so it makes sense that the newspaper included the sources that it did.

At the same time, the total lack of religious voices haunts the piece. These aren't just holy ghosts. They're blue ghosts.

Seriously, faith leaders' perspectives on this topic would be fascinating: Do they believe Texas should maintain any semblance of a day of rest? Or do the number of cars at youth soccer fields and megaplex theaters — as opposed to houses of worship — on Sundays point to a cultural battle already lost? 

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