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I, an agnostic person, was perturbed just now being told I couldn’t buy wine, the only thing I came in to buy, at 11:30AM on a Sunday in Augusta Georgia, because the law prevents them (Walmart) from selling it before 12:30PM. I’m pretty sure this law is based on religious beliefs.

I don’t know much about law, but it just seems absurd to me that a religion’s beliefs were just allowed to affect my personal life, minding my own business, and to do so with legal backing.

I didn’t even choose to live here. I was ordered to live here through military service. Can someone explain whether or not this is a completely constitutional thing in the US? If so, what’s the most relevant court case about it?

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  • Surely you mean 12:30 p.m.?
    – phoog
    Jun 25, 2023 at 17:04
  • @phoog Yes thanks :)
    – J.Todd
    Jun 25, 2023 at 17:12
  • Does that state law apply at AAFES? Jun 25, 2023 at 18:49
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    @Chipster considering that banning the sale of alcohol required a constitutional amendment and that the amendment no longer has any effect leads to the conclusion that banning the sale of alcohol is unconstitutional (nowadays). But that applies only to the federal government. There's no question that a state can ban the sale of alcohol. The question is whether they can restrict it in a way that is not religiously neutral.
    – phoog
    Jun 26, 2023 at 7:07
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    @J.Todd you could point that out and I might even agree with you, but the checks and balances in the constitution have settled in such a way that it's allowed. The courts accept it, the legislature doesn't seek to change it, and the executive enforces it.
    – phoog
    Jun 28, 2023 at 17:48

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No, given McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 and In Two Guys from Harrison-Allentown, Inc. v. McGinley, 366 U.S. 582. The principle is that laws with religious origins are constitutional if they have a secular purpose. In Braunfeld, the defendants who were Orthodox Jews could not operate their business from sunfall to sunfall on Friday-Saturday, and sought to operate on Sunday contrary to a Pennsylvanis law prohibiting retail sales of their commodities on Sunday. The court rules that the law "does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, nor constitute a law respecting an establishment of religion, and it does not prohibit the free exercise of appellants' religion, within the meaning of the First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment". Their argument was based on the fact that to comply with the requirements of their religion plus the statutes of Pennsylvania, they would suffer economic loss. The court historically reviewed blue laws and concluded that the requirement to be closed on Sunday is not necessarily tied to religion, noting for example that in 1776 Virginia seemed that "all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion" and repealed laws penalizing expression and observations of religions, but also maintained laws prohibiting Sunday labor. Restrictions are possible on "people's actions when they are found to be in violation of important social duties or subversive of good order, even when the actions are demanded by one's religion".

The matter has not come before SCOTUS since then (the constitutionality of blue laws is now "established law", until these rulings are overturned, analogous to Dobbs overturning Roe).

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