1923 February 20

Minister: Obey Sunday Closing Law or Leave the Country


Rev. Harry Bowlby, secretary of the Lord’s Day Alliance, told people in New York State on this day that they should obey the Sunday Blue Law, which required businesses to close on Sunday, or “seek other shores.” The idea that people should leave the country if they did not comply with a religious-based law very accurately captured the intolerant climate of the country in the 1920s. The manager of a vaudeville theater on Long Island, New York, was indicted for a Sunday performance, while eight movie theater owners in New Jersey were each fined $1.00 for their second offense of showing movies on Sunday.

“Blue Laws” were eventually challenged as violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in McGowan v. Maryland, but the Supreme Court, on May 19, 1961, ruled that they served other, secular purposes and therefore were constitutional.

Learn more about the Establishment Clause: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/religion

And more about the Establishment Clause: Jeremy Gunn and John Witte, No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (2012)

Learn about the history of “Blue Laws” in Washington State: http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=9057

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