North Dakota’s Archaic Blue Laws

It’s time for North Dakota to repeal its blue laws

For the most part, I believe that North Dakota is a good place to live. The people are nice, the taxes are relatively low, there are plenty of jobs and housing is cheap compared to many of the other states. However, the one glaring issue with North Dakota that bugs me to no end (besides our outdated drug policy) is the blue laws.

For those that don’t know, blue laws are laws designed to restrict or even ban Sunday activities for religious reasons, specifically Christian. These types of laws restrict certain businesses and their operators from opening their establishments earlier than noon on Sundays, as most Christians observe Sunday as a day of rest and spend their Sunday mornings at church.

The businesses banned from opening before noon on a Sunday are mostly retail stores, including stores that sell mattresses, glass, fabrics, clothing, shoes, kitchen supplies, home appliances, hardware, jewelry, paint, sporting goods and others.

These blue laws have been part of North Dakota’s Century Code for decades now, banning all businesses from opening their doors on Sundays entirely until 1991, when the legislature amended it so that a select number of businesses could open at noon at the earliest on Sundays. Places such as restaurants, theaters, warehouses, transportation services, and others are legally allowed to open on Sunday at any time, but most retail stores are still banned from opening before noon. Currently, the aforementioned stores banned from opening before noon on a Sunday in North Dakota will be charged with a class B misdemeanor if they violate the blue laws, resulting in a maximum punishment of either 30 days in jail, a $1,500 fine or both.

The one glaring issue with North Dakota that bugs me to no end (besides our outdated drug policy) is the blue laws. 

Personally, I find these blue laws archaic, anti-capitalistic and religiously-oppressive, and this is coming from someone who was raised Lutheran, went to church every Sunday for 18 years and holds no animosity or ill will toward the church. If anything, I’d say the time I spent at my church bettered me as a human being. I still consider myself a Lutheran, but I also consider myself a capitalist, an individualist and a Constitutionalist. I have no problem with Christians going to church or observing the sabbath, but I don’t like the idea that we should force non-Christians to abide by Christian rules under the threat of government force.   

There is nothing stopping Christians in North Dakota from resting on Sunday or going to church, so why do we need to force every other North Dakotan to abide by Christian views? Why do we need to use the force of government to compel people to follow Christian practices even if they aren’t Christian? What if a North Dakotan who isn’t religious wants to open their jewelry store or clothing store before noon on a Sunday because they don’t go to church or observe the sabbath? Are we as a society really willing to throw someone in jail for a month and take $1,500 of their money because they want to sell silverware at 10 a.m. on a Sunday instead of 2 p.m.?

I for one think throwing someone in a cage for a month and seizing $1,500 from them is incredibly immoral. I thought we practiced a separation of church and state in this country. I thought the First Amendment gave Americans the ability to practice, or not practice, any religion they so choose. If my memory of 8th grade history class serves me right, one of the main reasons the pilgrims came to this continent in the first place was to escape religious persecution in England.

If you’re a practicing Christian that goes to church every Sunday morning and observes the sabbath, good for you. It’s your constitutional right after all. If you own a business and don’t want to open it on a certain day because of your religion, go for it. Nothing is stopping you from doing so. Hell, even if you aren’t a practicing Christian and just want to take Sunday morning off for some rest and recreation, that’s perfectly fine and well within your abilities. What you shouldn’t do is force every North Dakotan to follow your beliefs and practices via government coercion. This country was built on capitalism and individual liberty, meaning that each of us should be able to do what we want with our property, so long as we don’t harm other people or violate their rights.

Luckily, there is a silver lining to this article. House Bill 1097 recently passed the North Dakota House of Representatives with a vote of 56-35. This bill would repeal the sections of the North Dakota Century Code that enforce the current blue laws in our state, allowing people to finally throw off the yoke of this outdated and idiotic law. The bill is now heading to the State Senate, where our elected representatives will hopefully see the light and vote it into law.

Remember people, individual freedom is a two-way street. Others can’t violate your constitutional rights and force you to hold their beliefs, but neither can you. If you truly value your personal autonomy and ability to believe whatever ideology you want, then you better allow others to practice theirs as well.      

Leave a Reply