Theocratic Hogwash

Churchstate I understand federalism, that political philosophy in which power is divided between a national and state governments. It's the concept that helps keep local communities in control of what are usually deemed local matters. I support it too.

It should be noted, however, that it is federalism that allows purely religious concepts and ideas to become embedded in local policy making and law.

In Georgia there is a bill moving through the legislature that would allow local communities to vote in referendums on whether Sunday sales of alcohol should be allowed at retail in their localities. Currently, Georgia bans all Sunday sales. Some folks don't like the idea of letting stores and individuals decide if they should buy their beer and wine on Sunday:

"If we sell more alcohol, more people are going to die," said Tom Rush, a pastor at the First Baptist Church in the town of Social Circle (GREAT name for a town.)

I'm a big fan of over the top rhetoric. When presented well it's really something to see. But in this case I think Pastor Rush just wasn't trying. At least he cold have suggested we not allow Sunday sales "for the kids."

But what would have really been interesting is to listen to the good Pastor explain why sales of alcohol should be banned on Sunday, instead of, say, Thursday or Monday. Why Sunday? Why couldn't he have given a solid defense of the idea of incorporating Baptist theology into public policy? The reason of course is that while he wants to impose his brand of faith on everyone, he's not that comfortable talking about imposing his brand of faith on everyone, including atheists, agnostics, and non-Baptists. And I say good for him. At least he knows he's on shaky moral and political ground by advocating this kind of nonsensical, self serving theocratic hogwash.

I should look into it but I'm willing to guess this kind of religiously-motivated law has been tested at the Supreme Court. And I'm willing to guess that at some point the Court said that such legislation is just fine as long as the law in question has a secular purpose expressed in its intent. You know, something like, "Children will die if we don't ban sales of alcohol on the Lord's Day".

7 Responses

  1. Dylan - June 18, 2009

    Granted it’s not the worst restriction in the world. At least it’s avoidable and can be planned ahead to make sure you have the purchases you need should they fall into use on a Sunday.

  2. Thomas Pellechia - June 18, 2009

    I’m sure that every encroachment offers that kind of defense.
    What’s unavoidable is the imposition of morals such restrictions impose.

  3. Benito - June 18, 2009

    One of the problems with so many of the Southern states is that, even if the state law is changed, individual counties or cities can pass even more restrictive laws. We’ve still got plenty of dry counties down here where all alcohol sales are banned 24/7. A wedding reception with nothing but grape juice and ginger ale is a strange experience for outsiders.
    In Arkansas, within living memory, it was illegal to purchase anything other than food on a Sunday. Larger stores had to block off the clothing, furniture, etc. sections.
    My home state of Tennessee has just slightly loosened up, allowing limited internet wine sales from licensed wineries. Baby steps.

  4. Thomas Pellechia - June 18, 2009

    Cotton Mather would be proud…

  5. Mark Storer - June 18, 2009

    Well, I would argue with the previous commenter about whether Cotton Mather would be proud. Let’s not forget that the history of the Puritans is not just in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. Mather was a gifted thinker, a believer in free enterprise and a sharp wit.
    As a practicing Christian–and a level 1 sommelier and wine lover, I can honestly say I believe Tom has hit the nail on the head. I lean to the right politically, but here is a case where left and right can agree: Legislating from the pulpit doesn’t work. It’s hard enough to legislate morality though both sides of the aisle do it every day and I would argue our current President is attempting to do it more than his predecessor. But here is a clear case where legislation is simply not called for.

  6. Thomas Pellechia - June 19, 2009

    Yes, Mark: gifted thinkers, believers in free enterprise, and bracing wit describes part of the Puritan sensibility, which was in part why they fled Europe.
    Once here, they were free to practice and impose their morality. I suppose you can speak to a Native American of Northeastern stock if you want to find out how that worked.

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