The continued presence of blue laws actually makes our legal codes look like a joke, and this can also affect us both in the U.S. as well as overseas.

The continued presence of blue laws actually makes our legal codes look like a joke, and this can also affect us both in the U.S. as well as overseas.

With regard to the specific example of laws which require that some businesses are permitted to operate every day of the week except for Sundays, we may want to remind ourselves that we do not live in a country where 100% of the citizens here view Sunday as a day that needs to be set aside for religious purposes- and we never did.

Many people work on weekends, and they like to try to do their shopping either before or after their shifts at their jobs, and many work on weekdays and only have time to do their shopping on weekends.  And if our lives aren’t complicated enough to begin with here, we can do all of our shopping on the weekends- except for purchasing beer, wine, liquor or automobiles- you’re still only permitted to purchase those on 6 days of the week in some states, thanks to the religious influence on our legal system in the 18th and the 19th centuries.

And furthermore, while we’re still in the process of attempting to recover from the financial crises of 2008 here, there are actually economic benefits to permitting stores to remain open on Sundays- including liquor stores and automobile dealerships.

Welcome To The United States Of America.

When we are dealing with people who are newly arriving into the U.S., the situation is different.  People are arriving from other regions of the world where the cultures are very different, the local as well as the national legal systems are very different from ours.  The role of law enforcement in other countries is very different- in some countries, law enforcement is largely corrupt, and the police are nothing more than an enforcement tool of organized crime.  In other countries, religious concepts are deeply woven into their legal system, some countries have “religious police.”

Some people who are arriving into our country may be escaping from police states, while others may be fleeing from countries which are presently experience near anarchy.  People may be coming from some countries may be accustomed to police forces who are actually more competent and effective as well as fair than ours (Did I just really say that?  Is that even possible?)  In other countries, the police may be well intentioned, but they are so understaffed that they are partially ineffective.

Think of how intimidating the experience is of moving to the U.S. from a region of the world where the culture and the legal systems are quite different- and then discovering that you’ve moved into a town where you see that some of these laws still exist in the second decade of the twenty- first century.  The experience of emigrating to another country is often stressful and frightening, it leaves people feeling alienated, and the last thing that these people need to be told is that now that you’ve applied to live or work in the U.S., you need to obey all of our laws here, except for the archaic and obsolete ones which we’ve not yet removed from the books- and good luck to you figuring out which ones those are because most of our politicians have forgotten about them entirely.

And this isn’t really trivial either, people may have noticed- there is in fact a refugee crisis occurring throughout the world this year, and some of those people will be ending up here- legally as well as illegally, they will end up here.

Blue Laws: So, what do we do now?

There are no blue laws which exist within our Federal government.  The laws which I’ve been discussing throughout this article are all town, village, city, county and state laws.  While the legislators in many town, county, city and state governments have removed their obsolete blue laws from their legal codes, quite a few do have not yet done so.  Preposterous as these laws may seem, the reason that they still exist at all is that most of these do not actually violate nor contradict any Federal laws, so the Federal government has never had any reason to intervene with local governments and force them to remove these archaic laws.  And because almost none of these blue laws violate any existing Federal legislation, the Federal government does not actually have the authority to force local councils to overturn or remove them.

The most that our Federal government would be able to do is to form a committee which could offer advice on how local governments might want to proceed to address these- and while our Federal government loves nothing more than to establish committees which discuss issues, in this case, this isn’t actually practical.  Addressing the archaic and obsolete blue laws and deciding whether city and county governments really still want to keep them or whether the time to remove them is long overdue will have to be accomplished entirely at the local level.  This can be accomplished either through referendums in which the voters decide or by the town councils, city governments, county and state government legislators themselves.

Most politicians will likely state that they have more important things to address in the city, town and village councils, the county governments and the state assemblies than to discuss obsolete and archaic laws.  And that’s actually my point.  The reason that these laws were never repealed is that politicians have been addressing quite a few other issues- or at least attempting to.  And that’s how obsolete laws become forgotten about.  But as I’ve stated, I don’t believe that these are entirely harmless.  As I’ve stated, they’re potentially confusing to immigrants, and a  handful of these blue laws are racist and offensive.

The continued presence of blue laws actually makes our legal codes look like a joke, and this can also effect us both in the U.S. as well as overseas when people in other countries decide to learn about America and about the American legal system.  The decision to either remove the archaic blue laws or to have referendums about overturning them can be accomplished impressively quickly.  That would not involve lengthy debate or discussion, notably few politicians would advocate for keeping these laws as most of them don’t even seem to know that these even exist to begin with.

Scott Benowitz

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...

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