Sunday closing laws Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

State or local laws that close all but essential businesses on Sunday to promote rest and the common welfare of the nation.

The first Sunday closing laws, or blue laws, went into effect in colonial America and were expressly designed to enable people to celebrate the Christian Sabbath. After the Civil War, businesses began to challenge the laws by, for example, publishing a newspaper on Sunday. In the late nineteenth century, labor unions and Sabbatarians joined forces to preserve Sunday as a common day of rest.Religion, establishment of

The Supreme Court has consistently upheld the Sunday laws. In Petit v. Maryland[case]Petit v. Maryland[Petit v. Maryland] (1900), the Court ruled that cutting hair did not constitute a work of necessity or charity and therefore forbade a barber shop from operating on Sunday. In 1961 the court ruled on four Sunday closing law cases. Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Massachusetts[case]Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Massachusetts[Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Massachusetts] and Braunfeld v. Maryland[case]Braunfeld v. Maryland[Braunfeld v. Maryland] involved challenges by Jewish merchants. The Court denied that the owners of these Jewish businesses, who closed on Saturday for religious reasons, suffered substantial harm from being forced to close on Sunday. In McGowan v. Maryland[case]McGowan v. Maryland[MacGowan v. Maryland] and Two Guys from Harrison-Allentown v. McGinley[case]Two Guys from Harrison-Allentown v. McGinley[Two Guys from Harrison-Allentown v. McGinley], the Court rejected the claim that Sunday closing laws promoted one religion over another and found that they did not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court found that the law did not aid a particular religion but rather had a secular purpose, promoting a day of common rest and recreation for workers. Eighteen states recognize Sunday closing laws subject to local enforcement.

Fifth Amendment

Fourteenth Amendment

General welfare clause

Religion, establishment of

Religion, freedom of

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