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The Sabbath Blog

Freedom to Rest

Freedom to Rest

A recent vote in North Dakota is continuing the process of repealing a century old law restricting retail sales on Sunday mornings. Local retailers, in cities like Fargo and Grand Forks, have been losing business to merchants across the Minnesota state line for years. Changing the law will allow stores to open before noon on Sunday. Various religious groups have weighed into the conversation with their opinions on the validity of the law, some feeling that the law is helpful because it allows time for families to be together and to attend church, while others see it as an unacceptable intrusion into their private affairs.

The law is based on religious traditions of Sunday observance in force in 1899 when North Dakota became a state. History is replete with examples of such religious practices becoming state legislation. Most of these cases have led to mistreatment of people who disagreed with or chose not to comply with the majority-based laws. Many of the people who founded the United States left their own countries because of their disagreement with state mandated religious regulations.

Despite their own negative personal experiences with religious legislation, many of the early colonies enacted laws regarding religious observances. Prominent thought leaders such as Roger Williams and Thomas Jefferson were influential in changing the landscape to a large degree through their writings. Jefferson’s document, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, was foundational for later documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the first amendment to the Constitution, which validated the natural rights of individuals to make religious decisions without the interference of state laws.

The current discussion in North Dakota is stated in terms of universal rest for families and communities. However, the day chosen is Sunday. Why not Friday? Or Tuesday, for that matter? It just happens to conveniently coincide with the majority day of worship. But what if Sunday isn’t the “right” day to worship? What if the majority is wrong about the day to worship? Jesus said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25). It seems Jesus saw a difference between religious issues and civil issues. Is it the government’s responsibility to tell us when to take a break or a vacation?

If you would like to learn more, check out this link on America and religious freedom.
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